I realized the moment I fell into the fissure that the Book would not be destroyed as I had planned. It continued falling into that starry expanse, of which I had only a fleeting glimpse. I have tried to speculate where it might have landed, but I must admit that such conjecture is futile. Still, questions about whose hands might one day hold my Myst book are unsettling to me. I know my apprehensions might never be allayed, and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written. -- Atrus

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Anniversary? Something More!!!

*wild screaming*

Something is coming!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Review and Defense of the Video Games Collection of the Applied Design Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art

I am not a scholar of Modern Art; I study ancient Egypt.  However, I am very fortunate to be a student at a prestigious school, New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, and I have presumed that at some level it qualifies me to write a review on the new and, in some ways, controversial exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City: Applied Design.

The exhibition first became known to me via the CyanWorlds website, Cyan Worlds being the company behind the Myst franchise.  Yes Myst, that game from the ‘90s.  Founders -- and brothers --  Rand and Robyn Miller first released the best-selling adventure game Myst in 1993 on CD-ROM, the first time that medium was used for computer games.  It was a pretty big deal.  This year marks Myst's 20th anniversary during which time a Myst "sub-culture" has emerged.  I could not have been more ecstatic to see it acknowledged before the world that Myst is more than just a game.  Myst is now displayed in an eminent museum -- a sign of world-wide and world-recognized cultural impact.

Myst Island from the computer game Myst (1993)
What made the news all the more exciting to me was the fact that the exhibition is in the Museum of Modern Art of New York City, a city I am lucky enough to be living in currently.  The game is part of an exhibition called "Applied Design", curated by Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Architecture and Design.  She had selected 14 ground-breaking (in their time) video/computer games to display as part of the other pieces already on display in the Architecture and Design collection.  Now, when I first read about this I thought the heavens had opened and that hitherto unrecognized forms of art were elevated overnight to sophistication.  "It's about damn time," I told myself.  SimCity 2000, Pac-Man, Tetris, Portal, to name a few, are also part of the collection, an interactive collection at that, and as I passed among the museum audience as they listened to the games via the available headphones or played the games (I watched one little girl no older than 9 play Portal -- that was cool!  See image below), I felt nostalgic.  

Girl playing Portal (2007) at the Applied Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Photo by Briana C. Jackson
A memory floated back to me that I didn't realize still lingered in my brain of how in Middle School we were rewarded after finishing our typing lesson with time to play SimCity 2000.  Summers at home were spent building cities, feeling a sense of satisfaction when I could finally build that airport and see airplanes zooming across the computer screen.  Then I remembered another summer I played SimFarm and how I would allow myself to devour a Pixy Stix only after I harvested a good crop of strawberries.  I was quite moved by the display of SimCity 2000 because a huge wall displayed tiles of screenshots while beside it a video screen played segments of gameplay.  To me, this was a beautiful thing.

Cell phone photo of the wall featuring screenshots of SimCity 2000  (1994), part of the Applied Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Photo by Briana C. Jackson
View of the wall featuring screenshots of SimCity 2000 (1994) with the video of the game, part of the Applied Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Photo by Briana C. Jackson
A better, brighter image someone posted online is below (sorry for stealing, but also thank you for producing such a wonderful image):

View of the wall featuring screenshots of SimCity 2000 (1994) with the video of the game, part of the Applied Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
This wall draws your eye immediately you step into the collection.  It's not right in front of you, mind.  In fact, it's rather tucked away, but amid all the white you catch this flash of color in the corner of your eye and you are drawn to the display.  I then, of course, made a beeline for the Myst display.  Like SimCity 2000, you can't play Myst, probably because of the narrative aspect with Myst and the strategy required for SimCity 2000.

Like a shining beacon, Myst lured me.  I had to wait and hop around in anxiety while a man listened to the music (accessed by means of headphones) and watched the video of the game.  Finally, I had the game all to myself and hogged the display while my roommate very graciously submitted to my pleas for photos.

Briana C. Jackson beside the Myst (1993) display as part of the Applied Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
Observe in the above image the two pairs of headphones, the video screen (in this photo the Blue Book in which Achenar is trapped appears in the middle of the screen.  "Bring the blue pages!"), and the label.  And myself, of course.  I would have dressed more fashionably, but I decided to "cosplay" a bit and dress like my Uru avatar:

Baladria and Briana at the Myst display at MoMA
The soundtrack that plays through the headphones is the music of the game.  The video begins with the Myst introduction, and carries on until the Myst Book falls to the ground and the Stranger is able to open it and travel to Myst Island.  Following this are various screenshots of the Ages as well as views of the brothers Sirrus and Achenar who are trapped in a red and blue Book respectively.  The video is set to repeat continuously.

Pac-Man (1980) and Tetris (1984) go way back, if you can call the '80s way back.  Actually, these two games were released before I was born.  I apologize to anyone who suddenly felt old after that sentence.  Imagine, therefore, people who were born in 1990, 2000, 2010.  How many of these people have been exposed to these two games in their original format?  With that in mind, we may consider this collection as a preservation of the video gaming vein that has been heavily absorbed into our culture.  It is difficult now for many to think about what life must have been like without video games.  People like to tell me how well off my generation is for being able to write papers using a computer when they had the more arduous, and therefore better, task of using a typewriter.  Likewise, my generation can tell those born in the 2000s "back in my day we played games only with the up, down, right, and left arrow keys on our keyboards!"  

Girl playing original Tetris (1984) at the Applied Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Photo by Briana C. Jackson
The MoMA exhibition allows these generational boundaries to open up a little.  Furthermore, without the hard work and brilliant idea of curator Paola Antonelli and her participating colleagues, games such as Pac-Man and Tetris are no longer in danger of being relegated only to fond memories of the past and modern comedic references that soon may not make sense to the younger generations.  Museums are responsible not only for granting us access to the creative minds of today but also for preserving culture throughout history.  Recently, I have tried installing SimFarm on my Windows 8 OS, but there was no way for it to work.  The future looks grimmer and grimmer for games that turned heads in their days, and how many more will suffer the extinction?  This is why the video games collection is so brilliant.  It's the original computer code that is preserved, and with this computer code forever in the archives of MoMA, we have aspects of our culture, however insignificant it may be to some, that will continue to survive.  I applauded the installation of this collection with great enthusiasm because I was proud that at least one person in the exalted world of art was able to see beyond the entertainment value and instead see the imaginative and creative quality in a series of binary numbers.

With all the above in mind, I was completely taken aback when I found negative reviews so aggressive that it seemed as though Antonelli was being accused of committing an egregious crime and besmirching the foundations of art.  An article in the New York Times briefly covers this collection and some other things that are going on the the Design world: And to Think I Saw It @ MoMA! I still haven't decided if it is a negative or positive review.  Antonelli has this to say in response to critics:


She was also on the Colbert Report, which says an extra something about the controversy of this exhibition.

Before I went to the exhibition I had already planned to write up a post about how excited I was to see Myst exhibited in a museum as opposed to just another tech geek convention (not that those aren't great).  However, after reading a very negative review, as well as seeing the rest of the museum's collections, I was feeling a bit protective of the games I grew up with, particularly Myst, and I knew I had to go a bit further in my ramblings.

This article, MoMA Has Mistaken Video Games for Art, very clearly argues that video games are only code and that "just" code is not anywhere close to being equated with art.  Here is where I have a problem.  Yes, at the most basic level of video games, they are code, but not "just" code.  And yes, Antonelli states that the fundamental purpose of the collection is to preserve the code, that is the idea of the medium and how it leads to extraordinary visuals.  Her entire Applied Design exhibition is meant to move toward the theoretical, throwing in a bit of physics and really engaging the audience, encouraging them to look beyond the superficial and into the heart and soul of design.  The stuff you don't see that results in something truly creative and inventive, even utilitarian.  Mistaken Video Games for Art?  I have made a laundry list of things I have questioned as being of artistic value.  For instance, observe these two images below:



If I were to tell you that these are artworks acquired by a museum at a great cost, would you believe me?  Well it is true.  I saw these pieces.  The first is by Donald Judd, the second by Carl Andre.  Look it up if you don't believe me.  Now, I already stated that I am not a scholar in Modern Art.  BUT, if a snooty scholar is going to argue that video games cannot be construed as art, then I am going to pick on the stuff I have a problem with.  The Judd piece, Untitled (Stack) makes a supposed minimalist statement, but, and I put this in bold, the museum label reads that it is "a geometric form Judd favored because he felt it carried no symbolic meaning."  To me, it looks like Ikea furniture glued to a wall.  He has several of these same displays in various museums, and the only difference is the color.  In my opinion, and it's an opinion don't forget, he pulled the wool over many eyes and got away with making these absurd shelves and making a killing out of them, perhaps just because he can.  I saw my first Judd piece in class once and then saw the students around me nodding voraciously to each other as though there were some inside secret.  My first thought about the piece was "What the hell is that?"  And then: "I'd put my coffee on it."  I can understand the people who crowded around Starry Night, but not the people who stopped to ponder a series of shelves on a wall.

The second one, a piece by Carl Andre which is similar to the one at MoMA (unless it is the one at MoMA? it's difficult to tell.) is what it is.  Two layers of bricks.  At MoMA the bricks are in the middle of the floor, quite the impediment in case of fire in my opinion, that is if people would still be aware of artworks when there is a fire.  I nearly stumbled over the piece as I was passing through, but caught myself on a dime when I realized -- wait there's art there.  It would better serve a construction site somewhere.  The bricks reminded me of the mudbricks the Egyptians make at Abydos for the conservation project of the Shunet el-Zebib monument there.  Someone should let them know they can make some sweet cash if they stacked them up in the middle of a floor.  I am truly missing something, I admit this unreservedly.  Is it another minimalism thing?  I'm not quite sure what that means.  I have a friend, Israel Mateos, who is into minimalist comic books by an artist/writer known as Jason.  For example, try his book I Killed Adolf Hitler.  These comic books are extremely limited in their textual narrative and rely almost entirely on the pictures to tell the story.  I've tried these books, and while I can see the appeal among comic book readers, I must admit that even there I am perplexed.

Now, allow me to turn to other art.  There's a plaza that runs between 56th and 57th Streets near the intersection at 5th Avenue, where last week I nearly bit the dust when a driver ran a red light.  In this roofed plaza are various comical-looking sculptures that line the walls.  They are all chocolaty brown in color and have globular, voluptuous shapes.  At passing glance they look like cartoons that children might enjoy.  One day as I was passing through, I actually looked at one and to my horror realized it was a swan having sex with a woman!  This morning, on my walk to the IFA, I decided I would look for some sign it was actual art.  I put my bag down and looked all over the sculpture, inadvertently drawing a lot of attention to myself from people standing around, and, upon crawling as far back as I could go, I found near the floor a museum label.  The piece is called Leda and the Swan (2007) by one Fernando Botero.  I took a picture of it for you.  The guy on the phone was one of the people who stared at me while I crawled on the floor.  And oops, by bag is in front of Leda's face.
Leda and the Swan (2007) by Fernando Botero, Marlborough Gallery, New York
It is interesting that what I thought was mere decoration suddenly became in my mind Art, merely because it had a title, a Classical reference, and a museum label.  It begs the question of how much art we miss simply because we don't realize it's art.  Another interesting artwork is the LOVE sculpture on 55th Street and 5th Avenue.  I know that people like to have their pictures taken with it, but I don't think people stop to think that it is Art.  It falls under the Pop Art category, whatever that means, and you can read about it on good old Wikipedia.  People know that the LOVE sculpture bears significance, and so they take pictures with it.  Now Love and Art.  That struck me quite strongly because it inspires one to think of two abstract ideas.  What is Love?  What is Art?  Is the contemplation of these two concepts part of the intention behind the design?

Below, these weird and creepy sculptures that appeared one day at an entrance to Central Park are an obvious artwork.  You don't have to sit there and wonder whether it is meant to be art; you know it is art because it was obviously erected to be perceived as such.

"United Enemies" (collection) by Thomas Schütte, Central Park, New York
One final questionable artwork is what I like to call the Giant E.  I found it one day last year while walking home and immediately thought of my sister, Erin.  When she came to New York recently, I hunted down the Giant E again so that I could have her take a picture with it.

Erin Jackson and the Giant E on 57th Street, New York
This sculpture is a bizarre case because it is multifaceted.  Is is a lower-case "e"?  Is it a 9?  Is it an upside-down 6?  Or maybe even, as commentary on linguistics, an upside-down schwa?  It's all a matter of perspective.  Also, is it Art?  Can we break this down even further as "intentional art" or "unintentional art"?  I discovered that it is actually a 9, designed by one Ivan Chermayeff of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv graphic design firm.  To me, the innocence of it makes it all the more artistic, but still--is it Art?

This brings me back to the video game collection at the Museum of Modern Art and that cruel title of the article MoMA Has Mistaken Video Games for Art which leaves no room for considering an alternative view that maybe video games are art.  Liel Leibovitz, the author of the aforementioned article and an assistant professor of Digital Media at NYU, implies that the collection is merely a demonstration of code.  But, as Antonelli argues, it is the idea that she is more concerned with.  If it were mere code, surely we would see mere code printed on a wall.  No, the code is displayed in its visually creative form.  What we see on the screen is the effect of the code which is hidden to us.  I have a small feeling that Antonelli is holding back a little in terms of the statement she is making about computer code.  If it were just code, why display only games?  Underlying is a bold statement that video games ARE art.

Consider what goes into the making of a computer game.  I know, because I have all the "making of" CDs that come with the special editions of the Myst games.  There are orchestras involved, conceptual artists, actors, etc.  The creators of Myst invented a whole new language, script, and numerical system, all of which one encounters in the games.  Observe an example of Myst concept art:


Concept art for Myst IV: Revelation, "Nighttime Tomahna"
I remember the first time I saw that concept art as I waited impatiently for the release of the fourth installment of the single-player series.  There is a website of some other concept art from the game Riven here that reveals the extent to which landscapes, geographies, and architecture were designed.

I have criticized some art very strongly here, but, while I personally don't find some works appealing, I do not think it is fitting to disregard their artistic value compared to other works, now that I find myself defending MoMA's video game exhibition.  Always in courses we are asked to consider what "art" is.  It seems no one ever has a clear definition.  Furthermore, who determines what is art and what is not?  Art Historians are trained to be discerning in their appraisals, but does that make them the only judges of art?  Video games are technological inventions that manifest images, ideas, and narratives.  Paintings and sculptures do the same, but with different media.  Who am I to say Judd's works aren't art, and who is anyone else to say video games aren't art?

"Pac-Man alongside Picasso", to me, is one of the most innovative installations I have encountered in museums thus far.  This little bit of code has impacted our culture worldwide since at least 1980.  This little bit of code displayed at MoMA is not only a visual addition to the museum but also it is a conservation project that preserves a broader spectrum of art.  Perhaps it is not as exalted as Picasso in the eyes of some, but art isn't meant to be exclusive.  That's why we have museums.  Just code?  I am just happy that I have lived to see Myst, in its 20th year, achieve enough acclaim to be exhibited in one of the most prestigious museums.  It's a reward most deserved.  Sixteen years of solving all of Atrus's problems seems to have paid off!

And to the little girl I saw playing Tetris, it may have been just a game to you when you visited a museum your parents dragged you to, but you have linked yourself culturally to your parents' generation.  And maybe in the future, when your kids are playing the latest video game, you will remember playing the original Tetris, a game your parents used to play at home as kids, at the Museum of Modern Art, thanks to the vision of one woman named Paola Antonelli.

For the future of video games, perhaps the ending has not yet been written...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Myst at the Museum of Modern Art

Just some brief words.  I saw Myst at the Museum of Modern Art today.  It's part of the Applied Design exhibit.  Hold onto your saddles, kids.  I'm cooking up a big fat serious "art historical" review on the entire collection.  Myst of course will take one of the leading roles in the post.  FYI, it may take a while.  I'll try my best to make it interesting to you.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Obsession

Since local_character is being lazy about his gameplay of MOUL and because I am being lazy when it comes to my studies (perhaps I just need some green tea), I have decided to say a few words about where my enjoyment of Myst finally turned into an obsession.

I was bored one day when I was 13 and I was on break from school.  I asked my older sister if she had any interesting book for me to read.  She had one on her shelf that she said she hadn't read entirely (or at all? can't quite remember those details).  It was Myst: the Book of Ti'ana.  I found it interesting that there would be a novel about the games so I took her up on her offer to read it.  She said the first book was out of sequence, so she lent the book to me in order to read them chronologically.  I appreciate this very much because I like order in things, especially books, so that I don't have to jump around all over the place.  Mine is a simple mind.

It was interesting enough, the beginning with Aitrus and his interest in rocks and volcanic activity, but it wasn't until the name Veovis appeared that I became thoroughly invested in the book.  As any teenager would, I began imagining how hot he was and exactly what he looked like with his fabulous black hair and pale eyes, and his esteemed social status, his charm, and his superior knowledge of the Science/Art of Writing.  I took to him immediately.

When the Myst movie was being planned (I understand that it fell through, which I sensed from the beginning it would) I was very protective of Veovis's representation.  It seemed as though he would be portrayed as having a hint of villain inherent in his character from the off.  Viewers would be cautious to trust him, which would completely ruin the whole story, in my opinion.  I know that Aitrus remembers him as being a bully, but it is Veovis who comes across Aitrus's work when both are 25 years old, recalls how he used to treat him, and then sends him a gift of apology and a wish that they could meet.  Such-and-such happens and they are great friends.  The events that follow throughout the book are heart-rending and I about lost it when Veovis tells Aitrus [SPOILER] "You should have let me fall."

Then I read the other two books at he speed of light and I believe that at this point I can truly say I was obsessed.

Shortly after this, when I was allowed on the internet, I joined a fan forum where I learned about Myst III: Exile coming out, and about the details of original Myst which I hadn't played yet because I didn't own the game.  I can't remember how I obtained Myst III: Exile because my parents didn't give us an allowance.  Maybe it was a birthday present, or maybe I received the game late in 2002?  I can't recall.  I remember only playing it for the first time, getting startled by Saavedro, and it extreme awe over the beauty of it.  From that game I learned more about Sirrus and Achenar, but I still hadn't been exposed to Myst.  It was when Uru: Ages Beyond Myst came out that I finally played Myst and I found it to be really easy because I was quite familiar with how the game worked.

When I installed Uru it didn't work!!  I was dismayed and wretched until another sister's then-boyfriend diagnosed the problem as our video card was shite.  My mother was so generous that she bought a brand new shiny expensive video card only so that I could play Uru.  The game was so cool and I was super excited about the online feature.  When I completed the game I wanted to do the online portion.  However, we had only a dial-up connection.  It was 2003, cut us a break!  But oh. My. God.  It was like watching paint dry.  Finally!!!  I was able to access the game, but only 5 minutes into the game my mother, who was quite impatient about me using up the dial connection and was unable to use the phone (I don't blame her), told me to stop with the game for a while.  I never was able to get back on and then I got the awful news that Uru Live was shut down.  Misery and despair ensued, but I still had the other games, the books, and the forums, which were loads of fun.

Baladria, which is the name of a character I invented in 2000 and who was then my favorite creation, became my Myst handle, and forever will be me.  By the way, the character was male.  Hahaha!!

I am working on reviving that story with Baladria in an episodic form on another blog, but it is still in early developmental stage.

Then there was Myst IV which both was both cool and really annoying.  The animals that pop out at you in Haven nearly gave me a heart attack (camoudile and zeftyr), much like that little girl in Riven.  But those monkeys--what are they called officially?  Mangree--drove me insane.  I think most people had that reaction.

Creepy Riven Girl
By the way, Googling Riven girl brings up a lot of weird images.  

As for Myst V, it was very, very sad.  I liked the Ages and I thought Esher was really cool.  He was the first full-blooded D'ni-person we were ever allowed to see.  Up until Esher, Gehn was the closest we had gotten, but he was only half-D'ni, though he seemed to look more like the D'ni people would have, according the descriptions in the books, rather than Earthling.  I wasn't too into Yeesha, however.  Her character has always seemed under-developed to me and I really didn't understand her involvement.  She also seems so arrogant, exactly how she perceives the D'ni to have been.  It was sad because it was the end.  The title said it all.  The series was finished, but at least, at the end of all things we saw Atrus one last time and [SPOILER] we got to see a tiny glimpse of Releeshahn.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Practice of Journaling

I know that many Myst fans keep journals of their game experience.  We tend to write these journals in a role-playing way.  If you want an example here's a whole forum on it Myst Community (.com).  We're a dedicated bunch.  Why do we do this?  For one reason it is to take notes because it is impossible to play these games without taking notes, especially in Riven where the codes for puzzles do in fact change.  Another reason is because the characters in the games keep journals themselves.  You must sit there and read the characters' journals because that is where you find many of the answers.

In searching for game players' journals I discovered this rocking site that includes all character journals.  I became quite giddy.  I shall put this link on the right-hand column soon (maybe after I get home from work if I don't have the time now) <--- see, THAT is an example of our tendencies to role-play journal.  Readers of this blog really aren't going to care when I go to work and how I schedule time in my day to write this blog.  (I'm actually supposed to be studying Middle Egyptian right now!)

Anyway: here is the complete set of character journals.  Holy shiznat!  There's even a page-turning soundtrack.  I'm in love!  The Uru one is especially complete because it comprises the reports of the DRC (D'ni Restoration Council) on D'ni culture and history as opposed to offering only journals.  I just found the DRC site also.  Many of these sites haven't been updated for a while because of the funding problems for MO:ULa.  I'd love to see it revive, maybe give us a new Age to celebrate 20 years instead of only offering the games on iPhones or iPads, two things I don't have.

Player journals for Myst games don't stop there.  The practice actually squeezes its way into our daily lives.  I tried keeping a journal when I was 13 or 14.  One of those rough ages when you are filled with angst and have to write in your diary how much life sucks and wishing you could die because, oh I don't know, maybe someone threw a french fry at you, just to name an example.  Needless to say, that practice did not last very long, maybe a year or so before I became bored with it.  It began to feel more like a chore.

When I went to Ireland for the first time in 2010 I decided to get a journal for the occasion both to track my crazy adventures, which in fact often were quite crazy (I wrote 20 pages in the guest book on my account of my stay -- and a couple actually sent me a letter hahaha!) and also in case I had story ideas.  It worked out quite well.  Later, when I gave a presentation on traveling to Ireland, I consulted my journal for facts I may have forgotten and it proved quite useful.  I have been journaling ever since!  My inspiration behind journaling altogether was/is Myst, and also Queen Victoria who firmly believed one must write in one's journal every day.  Honestly, I have no idea how she found the time to be so thorough because she had so many projects and documents she was working on.  Journaling is something I encourage.  You may feel you have nothing to write about, but you will be surprised when suddenly you have written 5 pages!

Here I share with you my Myst journal that I have reserved solely for Uru: Complete Chronicles.  I intend to fill up the remaining pages with the differences in MO:UL...another reason I begged local_character to play the game.  I need to do Ahnonay the MO:UL way again.  What was frustrating when I played Coomplete Chronicles again is that I discovered I had written up Er'cana the Uru Live way, so I had to make alterations that annoyed me very much.  Grrr!  Also, through the various versions of Uru Live, my list of Ages on the inside cover of the book are all messed up!  The woes of Myst fans.








I have another blank journal waiting to be filled with my experiences in the single-player games.  And by journal, I mean those fancy ones.  My Ireland one was leather.  Very travel chic.  My current one is hardback with an old-book look to it.  My Myst one is hardcover, but wrapped in a rough velvety book cover that ties the book closed.  My Uru journal is what you see above, the Myst Personal Journal that came with the 5th Anniversary Edition.

In other news, and maybe I will write up another post about this, there is another game I play called Pharaoh, like SimCity, only in ancient Egypt.  I intend to use it in my Egyptology classes when I become a professor haha!  local_chracter introduced me to it and he was trying to convince me to start a blog about that.  I told him HE should do it, but I guess I must be the one to do it.  He doesn't even have gmail, the savage!  I will wait to fix up the design before I post about it here.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Soundtracks on YouTube

The entire Myst subculture world probably knows already that the Myst series soundtracks are on YouTube.  Today I was searching the internet for a list of the songs from the official Uru soundtrack, seeing if perhaps I could compile it from the program files like I did for another computer game I like to play.  I don't have the physical copy of either the Uru soundtrack or the Myst IV: Revelation soundtrack.  I was able to buy the mp3 Myst 4 from Amazon and I wanted to be able to do the same thing for Uru but Amazon does not have that option available.

While searching for the song title list, I came upon the soundtrack on YouTube!!  There are two options available: complete soundtrack in one video, or each song in its own video.  I chose the later so that I could make a folder of the individual songs and load them onto my iPod (nano 2nd generation, yellow, "old school").  Using the download-from-YouTube capability I discovered, I was able to accomplish my goal of having the complete set of soundtracks.  (Clearly my goals in life are not always grand-scale.)

Anyway, I thought I would post the soundtrack(s) here for everyone's delight!




And the others:









Thursday, July 4, 2013

Getting Acquainted with the KI

local_character found a new frustration after finishing the Cleft.  He found the last Journey Cloth really easily.  "With fresh eyes," he said, "It was child's play."  After his Cleft journey was over, he was ready to have me tag along to his new Ages.  We met at the Ferry Terminal in D'ni so that, after my coaching, he could share his Relto with me.

local_character's Relto was coming along, since now he had found 3 "green things" (hahaha!), and he took a moment to stroll out to the Island of Sparks.  I began taking photos to record his wanderings, most of which appear in my KI Album on the right sidebar.

local_character on his island
His new birds were irritating him and he kept asking when and how could he kill them.  Again, dude, this isn't Halo.  I explained to him how he could turn off the pages in his Relto Book in order to personalize his space.  In the library, I whined that it was too dark and so I opened the windows.  He asked me how I did this and I showed him the lever, wondering how he hadn't noticed it before.  Upon learning about the lever, he spent some time continuously opening and closing the window.

When I told him how to share books, we began this process.  Unfortunately, the game on my end was glitching and so I had to exit and login again.  Because of this, I instead walked him through the KI process of sharing Ages, which was a frustrating task for me, but eventually we got everything in order.  Because he had stepped into two Ages already, Kadish and Eder Gira, I asked which he would like to visit first and he said he wanted to go to the desert with the carnivorous plants (see below).  Eder Gira.  I wonder if he will start remembering the names of the Ages or if he will simply refuse to call them by their names.

Crash course in KI functions
Judging by the visual chat above, he has begun using the terminology...he used the word Age!  Hmmm, also looking at my KI snapshot I see that I have some more pellets to drop.  Off we went to Eder Gira.

It was nighttime there, so I took the opportunity to take some photos.  I was directing him where to stand (a little forward, a little to the left, back a half step) which drove him crazy, but I got a cool shot.

local_character in Eder Gira
He caught on to the steam vents puzzle very quickly, at first just closing them and opening them here and there, seeing what happens when so many are closed at one time.  He jumped down to the lowest rock island and boasted to me that he bet I never got down there, not realizing it was actually part of the puzzle.

local_character on the small rock island
When he discovered that the steam could lift him into the air, he quickly reached the first Journey Cloth.  Then, he began to see what the other steam vents would do if he maximized their steam.

local_character shot upward by a steam vent in Eder Gira
At this point he didn't know what else he should do and he expressed that he didn't like the [seeming] lack of clues.  Hang in there, local_character, you're doing fine!  Eder Gira annoyed me when I played it, too.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

local_character at the Cleft

Last night, local_character almost completed the Cleft.  I was left laughing at the way he explained things, such as calling Relto Pages "green things" and the whark a whale, despite my attempt to explain what it was.  It is interesting to discover how many aspects of Uru were made specifically for the crowd that has played every game and read the books.

local_character had found previously 3 Journey Cloths very easily: on the back of the sign at the link-in point, on the whark skeleton, and on the back of Zandi's (whom he refers to as "that fat guy") trailer.  When he finally went into the Cleft he began to hit roadblocks and became more and more frustrated.  It took him some time to realize that the fallen bridges acted as ladders.  He asked for advice on how to lower the bucket to which I answered "look down".

When he arrived at the lever that operates the mill, he sought more advice.  I gave him questions to think about such as "So the lever is blocked, what could be blocking it?" and when he got the lever working he wasn't sure what the big deal was.  I then asked "What is the general purpose of a windmill?", thinking of the turbines I came across in Co. Donegal, Ireland.  He realized that power must extend farther than the lever.

When he came to the recording device that activates Yeesha's hologram message, he was frustrated again because his code didn't work.  I told him to double check, make sure the order is correct, make sure you copied the symbols correctly.  I was amused by his descriptions of the symbols.  He referred to one as the "football", whereas I refer to it as the "fuzzy eye".  He discovered that he had one of the symbols wrong and so he learned the lesson that in Myst you need to double check a lot.

The "football" or "fuzzy eye"
He found the next two cloths, one on the wall in one of the rooms, and the next where one appears during Yeesha's hologram speech.  I don't think he listened to her speech.  When I asked him, he made a joke about what he felt her girlfriend-potential was: "If I was the last man on earth and if she was the last woman".  Personally, I find that harsh because I think she looks cool with her face tattoo and cornrow-bangs on one side of her head.

His final frustration is the final Journey Cloth.  He can't find it.  I warned him it is a tricky case, typical of Myst games.  He wondered if he should close both doors in the two rooms and found that didn't work.  I suggested that he close one, which he did, but he said he found nothing.  Finally at midnight here in NYC (where I live; he lives in Chicago), local_character decided he would sleep on the matter of the final Journey Cloth in the Cleft.

Before signing off, however, he was delighted to inform me he found two "green things":


By which, of course, he meant the birds and calendar (or blue flames island) Relto Pages.  I wonder if he will ever submit to using the proper terminology.  He refused to accept whark as the name of the beast whose skeleton is found near the other Riven ruins.

I remember when I first played Uru 10 years ago (!) how excited I was to see those ruins and realize where it was exactly that I "found" the Myst Linking Book.  Ah memories!

One thing I noticed that was particularly surprising to me was how frustrated he was with this early beginning.  Also, he finds it difficult to stop in the middle of something and type a reply to me.  He was asking about VOIPs and I nearly told him that this wasn't Halo 3 on Xbox Live.  I mentioned that maybe we could Skype at the same time as playing the game if that is easier.  He did not seem receptive to this idea.  As to his gameplay, he surprised me by getting stuck at the puzzles.  When I first played, I breezed through the Cleft.  But then I remembered that he hadn't been exposed to Myst before and therefore would not know how the puzzles tend to operate.  A lesson in patience on my part, and a lesson in brain exhaustion on his part.  I suppose his reactions are akin to mine when I played Myst IV: Revelation.  ("Try moving the slider!")

Anyhow, tonight he will attempt to find that final Journey Cloth and then I will be able to travel to his new Ages with him.  In silence, of course.  I won't point anything out.  I've taken to keeping chat logs in case in the future I will be able to post examples of local_character's hilarious thoughts.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

An Experiment

I have nagged and nagged both friends and family to play any or all of the Myst games.  I tend to suggest Uru more strongly than others because it is newer, fit for multi-player, and it is accessible to a wider audience.  The response I tend to get from people who have actually heard of the game is "That game from the 90s?"  Yes.  That game from the 90s.  And the 2000s.  And the now 10-year-old Uru surviving here in 2013.  The original Myst is in a museum.  Shouldn't that in itself be an incentive to play?

Finally, I convinced a friend to play it.  After 10 years of nagging him!  He made an account for himself, and now he is known as local_character (KI 22120546).  I walked him through getting his KI so that we could chat online instead of via text messaging.  He is learning the controls and I brought him to my Relto and explained a tiny portion of the city (D'ni) to him before I dictatorially sent him to the Cleft.  I don't know how much of that he has completed, but I will find out when he returns.

So, while conversing with him via email today, I was hit with an idea to make notes about his methodologies of gameplay.  He has never been exposed to the games before, and while it is second nature to me, I am very curious about his process and progress.  I asked him if it would be all right for me to post my observations here and he agreed.

Therefore, this will be my project.  Cheers to the journey of local_character!  Welcome to the party!

(I'm really looking forward to Kadish's Ages!)