- It's hard to believe that Myst is 20 years old
. I fondly remember spending hours and hours, usually in a dimly lit room, totally immersed in it's gorgeous and moody inventive world. Perhaps this is a good time to take a little nostalgic trip through my list of the most memorable and influential games. (read on...)
I'm not what you'd call a hard core gamer; and I'm especially out of place in today's dominance of quick-reflex shooters or massively multiplayer virtual societies. I grew up in the golden age of the Atari, though it was the Intellivision in our house. Certainly several controllers-worth of fun was had; and many pages of paper while trying to map out the complete Pitfall!
I think the first game I remember that transcended the idea of a "game" was 1983's Pinball Construction Set
by Electronic Arts on the Commodore 64. It was the first time I saw a building
platform, where you could assemble your own pinball machine any way you wanted and then immediately play it, with seemingly correct physics. And then you could move bumpers and paddles around and play your new version. You weren't just playing the game, you were building it too.
Another game worth mention was Lemmings
in 1991. It was one of the first real-time puzzle solving games I remember, and one in which you didn't so much directly play as much as you assumed a god-like role to the countless little virtual characters who did the real work. And on the Amiga platform, it was also a two-player game, which was deliciously fun.
When I arrived at college my first year, the computer department was unboxing its very first set of "desktop" computers; with the old PDP-11 "mainframe" freshly unplugged and pushed into a dark corner (though the huge VAX still churned away, loudly, in it's own glass-enclosed room). It was the first time I saw a Sun Microsystems workstation; with it's huge monitor such a far cry from my Commodore 64. It was also the first time I saw Nethack
being played; and I've been hooked ever since. Nethack is one of the original dungeon adventure games, and visually consists mostly of letters scattered across the screen. But that's so deceptive. The depth and complexity of the game play are still almost unrivaled even today. And yes, this 26-year old game is still very playable, and addictive.
The closest I ever got into a first-person shooter was Tomb Raider
. Of course there was the whole seductive Laura Croft attraction to it, but more than anything I was attracted to the extensive worlds she played in. The seemingly endless series of tombs and tunnels and chambers and secret passages to explore; all mixed with part history and part mystery. Not to mention the intricate traps and puzzles too. My only problem was that I actually had to shoot things; when all I really wanted to do was explore.
That of course is where the Myst
series of games most excelled. Pure exploration was their primary game play, though puzzle solving gave it energy and immediate goals and story telling gave it depth. There was nothing to shoot, no trick timing of jumps, and you couldn't die. But the worlds were so immersive in experience that you often felt as if you were on a vacation to a richly exotic destination.
If you desired direct competition with other people (albeit in a very limited capacity compared to today's massive online games), the Age of Empires
series was amazingly satisfying. It was part world building and resource management, and part military strategy and tactics. And a whole lot of fun .... except when you lost, that's never fun.
For people who enjoy world-building, it didn't get much better than Rollercoaster Tycoon
. What better way to spend time than to create your very own amusement park, complete with hundreds of virtual little guests to enjoy your creation. From actually designing rides, often with disastrous crashes, to getting to decide exactly what color of flower or hedge you placed in your landscape; this game gave you complete control, from the big picture to the tiniest detail, over a fun little world. At least, that was, until the series was ruined by the full-3-D version; a plague that has destroyed many world-building game series.
When you wanted a bit more challenge to go along with your world building, the games Pharoah
and its sequel Cleopatra
were tuned just about perfectly. Maintaining and growing an economy and balancing many often-opposing needs was certainly challenging. But then you also got to build wonderful bustling cities, and pyramids and elaborately painted tombs.
I'm sure I'm missing many important games, and many more that were really fun though perhaps not as groundbreaking. But let me end right now with a somewhat more modern ground-breaker of note: World of Goo
. It is somewhat a cross between a puzzle solver and world builder, with fun physics tossed in. It is certainly hard to describe until you've played it, but very hard to put down. .... Oh, and now go read Lost to the Ages
which I've linked to below.#games #myst #nostalgia