Here's where I may have "sqeeee'd" a little.
In order for my dear readers to understand why this gives me the favorite-skinny-jeans-just-out-of-the-dryer warm and fuzzies, I'll need to change my sweater and put on my house shoes.
<Wayne's World Flashback Sound>
It really started years ago - well before The Longest Journey was even in production and maybe even an idea. It was two brothers in Washington State and a game that would hold the title of highest selling CD-ROM game for nearly a decade and nearly single-handedly ushered in the age of the CD-ROM.
Until that point in my life (I was 11) I had grown up in a household that basically considered games to be a distraction and an overall waste of time. I suppose this was understandable; my parents having come from a very different generation (i.e. the Jurassic Period), and had therefore seemingly missed out on the video games bubble of the late seventies and early eighties - leaving us to fend for ourselves when it came to both discovering games and finding a way to play them.
Sadly, before that fateful year of 1993, I had never experienced the thrill of playing all those great games from the NES, SuperNES, Sega Genesis and Sega Saturn iterations. Our family didn't even own a Windows PC - we had one of those beige boxes with a little Apple logo. Yep. My dad has been an Apple fanboy since Jobs teamed up with Ridley Scott and told us that PCs were enslaving our race. Naturally, I'd spend my later years catching up on all the goodness I'd missed, but as of that moment...
I was a gaming virgin.
Oddly, it was one of my dadís MacWarehouse catalogs that changed all that. After pushing past the usual pages of fancy looking Macs and super-fast iomega Zip drives, Iíd arrive at the software section. I loved the software section; probably because I was a huge dork. It was filled with sexy products like Ray-Dream Studio, Infini-D 3D and Stratavision 3D.
The thing I loved the most was pouring over the product screenshots and example renders. My imagination would go wild upon seeing the amazing worlds that could be created with these tools. "If only I had the money, computer and know-how to make the worlds I saw in my head! Oh the awesome I could create!"
And thatís sort how I discovered Myst.
There was this little screenshot attached to the product description for Stratavision 3D. It was quite the intriguing shot of a small reflecting pool containing a floating model ship. Beyond lay a classical styled building and rows of trees framed the view. Under the screenshot, it mentioned the game Myst. I had to know more! Could someone have done what I wanted to do?! Could they have created a game with one of these amazing 3D render programs and built a world? Of course they had. Flipping a few pages further to the games section, I found it. Myst.
My body was ready.
Needless to say, Myst was the only thing on my Christmas wish-list that year. Nothing else mattered. I had to have Myst. I needed this surreal journey. I wanted it to become my world.
Iíd like to think this is how a lot of gamers started. At some point, we found a game - either by stumbling on it at a friendís house or seeing it at an arcade or finding screenshots in a MacWarehouse catalog. Either way, it happened. That spark happened. Pretty soon, thatís all we could think about until we were in it. And thatís exactly how it started for me.
Myst was my life for a good three months while my brother and I marveled at the HyperCard-and-Stratavision 3D (OMG remember HyperCard?!?!) crafted world(s). The journal included in the box was soon full of our pre-adolescent cursive scrawl as weíd write down every Díni number, discovered pattern and boiler-plate print we came across. There were pages of connect-the-dots as we figured out the constellations and rows of copied button alignments for intricate engine puzzles.
Tell me a story...
Years later, the things that mattered to me back then, still matter to this day. While I certainly went through phases of discovering shooters, platformers, RPG and RTS games; I was ultimately moved by games that showed the importance of story, immersion and character development. The Longest Journey and its sequel, Dreamfall, displayed these strengths. Storied franchises like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Persona, the Tales series, The Elder Scrolls and more recent franchises like Uncharted and The Witcher, have all left their marks on me, and I'll never forget the wonderful myriad of characters with whom I spent time with along the way.
It's simple really. If a game can deliver a compelling story with memorable characters and inject a layer of cognitive engagement wrapped in beautiful art, Iím a happy player.
Dreamfall Chapters is still nearly 2 years from estimated release and I can't help but be full of happy fangirl bubbles. The Longest Journey franchise has proven that a studio can create a gender balanced story without relegating women to sexualized supporting characters, provide strong moral and societal plot devices within an intriguing fantasy/scifi story and tie it all together with a beautiful art style and delightful puzzles. And while other mechanics might have been hit or miss *cough* combat *cough*, when it came to the actual gameplay, the writing, plotting and graphics were beautiful.
So, as long as there are bold and creative studios out there that continue to keep the flame of great adventure gaming alive, Iíll continue to be that happy player. Thanks to the many sequels of Myst, Dreamfall/Dreamfall Chapters and a handful of other adventure gems like Syberia 1&2 (also with a third in the works) and the wonderful LucasArts games of yesteryear and the Telltale and Double Fine games of today, I have enjoyed a gaming life full of characters and worlds that are forever wedged into the folds of my imagination.