The Lore and Language of Myst

Very few games today have a story that fully engrosses the player not only inside the game, but also in reality. The majority of videogames now have started to place all the work and emphasis only on the multiplayer aspect and hardly give any attention to the main story. However, there are a handful of games that place a great vast of energy and time into making an incredible story. It is no coincidence that these games with a fantastic single player often have a rich in-game history, lore, and unique details such as new languages. Myst is one of those rare and special games that allow the player to enjoy the game in all aspects, not just while sitting in front of a computer screen.

Many games follow a simple, linear path that do not give players the option to go out, explore, and discover hidden gems that add to overall enjoyment to the game. Myst is not one of those games. It rewards the players who take time to read every journal and book, finish every puzzle, and talk to every person.

Since the main story revolves around special “linking” books, it comes to no surprise that Myst is scattered with journals and books written by Atrus about his observations about the different Ages that he went to. These journals not only described what the Age looked like, but also talked about the different races and their cultures that existed on each of them. The Channelwood Journal, found in the library on the island of Myst, talks about a new race that Atrus discovered when he went:

“I was awakened this morning by strange noises coming from a pathway adjacent to the   one on which I had slept. I saw a group of monkey-like people heading in my direction. They had not seen me yet. I did not feel threatened by their presence. Their response to me was one that I would have never expected. After staring at me for a short time,they fell to their knees and began what appeared to be some sort of ceremonial worship. I tried to speak to them, but they did not understand my language. Instead, they indicated through enthusiastic hand motions that I was to follow them” (Myst, 1993).

The Channelwood Journal is not the only journal that talks about the culture and language of the native inhabitants of the Ages. These journals contribute to forming the backstory and history that makes up the story of Myst. Many die-hard fans love to analyze these journals and break down what each and every part means; it has almost become a game in itself.

David Wingrove took advantage of the in-game books scattered throughout the island by writing and publishing, with the help of the creators of Myst, three novels that center around Atrus and his family: The Book of Atrus (1995), The Book of Ti’ana (1996), and The Book of D’ni (1997) (Cook 2). These books contributed to creating a richer history and backstory by telling the readers and players more about how Atrus learned the ability to create the linking books, Atrus’ family and heritage, and the importance the extinct race of D’ni played in the grand scheme of Myst.

The reception to the Myst novels was mostly positive. Sybil Steinberg of Publisher’s Weekly reviewed The Book of Atrus and stated that Wingrove’s achievement of a “rollicking adventure tale” was improbable, given that previous game-to-book attempts had failed horribly (Steinberg 42). Booklist also gave the book a positive review, stating that the plot was predictable but it served its purpose “to either introduce readers to the game, or supply players with back stories” (Duncan 5).

Another thing that Myst and the creators of Myst did that allowed its fans to become more involved in the overall story and enjoyment of the game was that it developed an entirely new language called D’ni that had its own grammar, alphabet, number system, and timekeeping system (“D’ni Alphabet”). Cyan Worlds, the creator of Myst as well as its sequels, would periodically release phrases in D’ni and challenge players to translate them to their native language.

Players have also created their own fansites dedicated to teaching D’ni to players who are curious about learning the language. Other sites are dedicated to explaining the history behind not only the language of D’ni, but also the race of D’ni. The D’ni Restoration Council is one of those sites who are actively pursuing spreading the history and culture of the D’ni to curious players.

Myst is a game that isn’t only about the story line, it’s about the back story, history, and legends that the land of Myst creates. It draws the players in through the use of various novels based on the game, as well as an entire history behind the story line. It’s different from most games in that aspect, and has become well known not only in the gaming world, but in society as well.

By Alex Privitt