For those of you who didn’t see my winning post at Mystmovie.com, here ya go, my story, “A Trip Through the Linking Book.”
I often write in my blog about the wonderful adventures I’ve had by just picking up my Myst Reader, logging in to Myst Online, or just booting up my favorite in the franchise, Myst IV, to hear Peter Gabriel’s voice bring Dream to life. But to be honest, my favorite part of being involved in the Myst Universe is that it never fails to inspire.
I started out on my journey in 2003 when I just kept eating through game title after game title. To be honest, I was stuck in a foreign country with no friends, so the only thing I could do, outside of cleaning my house, was play games. And did I play. The game boxes started stacking up as I’d go through a title or more per week. Seeing that he couldn’t sustain that kind of consumption, my ex-husband asked me one night at dinner if I had ever heard of the game “Myst.” Not knowing what it was, I wondered what he could have been eluding to, referring to the spatial problem solving he had mentioned. Later that week, he brought me a very old version of Myst. I loaded it up and began to play, but this time instead of decimating the game in a week, Myst took me over a month to finally finish. At that point I was hooked. At around that same time, a commercial was playing on television, one that had the music of Peter Gabriel singing “Burn you up, burn you down” while these amazing graphics and images of mushrooms went across the screen.
A few months later, after begging profusely, underneath the Christmas tree was a brand new box containing Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. After I installed the game, I went to work on it, savoring every last beautiful detail, listening to the music and being enthralled at the sight of an avatar that looked just like me wandering the great city of D’ni.
Back in 2003 when Myst Online first opened, I was lucky enough to be invited (in the great clerical error of very early 2004) to the open beta test. It was there, among lag and countless restarts, that I bumped into a wonderful woman named “Pepsi”. She was a real treasure. In the early days of UruLive, sitting on the worn stone floors of a neighborhood, Pepsi taught me some of the base tenets of the Myst Universe: that I should always greet everyone I meet with a smile on my face and love in my heart; that there is no room for bigotry or bias; that the world is meant to be explored one stone, and one dream, at a time.
After being ‘adopted’ by Pepsi, we ran everywhere together. And I do mean RAN. If you knew Pepsi, you will agree with me when I say that when it was time, Pepsi didn’t fool around. If she was set on doing something, it got done. But if you were with her, you didn’t walk, you didn’t dawdle, you didn’t jog, you RAN. And more than likely, you were laughing all the while your hand and wrist was cramping from trying to keep up with her. Daring jumps that made most people reach out to their Relto books for safety? Oh no, that wouldn’t do, Pepsi jumped headlong into the breach. She was truly fearless and she dragged my terrified backside along behind her, always saying, “Come on, you can do it!”
When she wasn’t online and I was alone, I would spend hour upon hour in-world, scouring it to learn all I could about the fascinating world she had welcomed me into. I went through each of the ages, from The Cleft to Gahreesen, scouring and exploring every last nook and cranny of the game with a fine-toothed comb, searching for journals that held game lore, reading practically everything could get my hands (and mouse pointer) on; then memorizing the city itself, every inch of navigable (and sometimes not-so-navigable) terrain I could get my avatar’s feet on, so that I could navigate Ae’gura’s streets like a true D’ni native. It was after so many hours spent immersing myself in the Myst Universe that I realized I had finally found a place that felt like a true home. I was lucky enough that, during the brief time that UruLive existed, I made so many friends and was wholeheartedly accepted into a very unique family. And that woman named “Pepsi” was the beating heart of it all.
The adventure had only begun when it came crashing down on us like a great cave-in. Ubisoft, the game’s publisher, had deemed our community “financially non-viable”. A bean counter, a person who had no idea what they had in their hands, pulled the plug on our world because our community of 10,000 wouldn’t service the bottom line and turn a big enough profit for them. Uru, the one place in the universe that can teach anyone to live without succumbing to the seven deadly sins, was killed by greed. It was catastrophic, leaving a community of 10,000 to cope with the loss of friends that had quickly congealed into a giant family. We literally became a diaspora. A people without a home.
After UruLive closed down, in my efforts to cope with the enormous loss, I went back and played Riven and Exile. Lucky for me, right about that same time, Myst IV: Revelation was coming out with the creative ground zero, “Revelation Lair”, being at Ubisoft’s Montreal Studio. Thank goodness for forums, because I was lucky enough to communicate with some of the greats of the community which allowed me to be invited and attend the “Quad-M” or The Montreal Mini-Mysterium Meet where I got to go to Revelation Lair and meet the game designers, sound designers and the wonderful folks who brought a piece of the Myst Universe to life. I still have my M4 coffee mugs from that day and they’re used quite regularly. I have photographs from those days of us hugging Pepsi bottles and sending photos to Pepsi to let her know she was with us in spirit the whole way. Before social media, we found a way to make sure that Pepsi could say she was at the Quad-M.
But then came a glimmer, then there was hope, finally, an announcement that the one place (in the entire universe) that I had finally found a home was going to be available again. I could go home, take a breath of metaphoric cavern air, sit on the grass of my relto and be at peace. We were being given a beautiful second chance: UntilUru, fondly remembered as “UU”.
When we stepped into UntilUru, I got together with some friends and created the D’Olympics (they later changed the name to the D’ni Games). You see, the woman who taught me how to live as a part of the Myst Universe was a bit of a mystery herself. I found out a few months after UruLive closed that she had juvenile arthritis and had been bound to a motorized wheelchair since she was 14 years old. When I met her, she was 51.
All that running we did in Cavern, she couldn’t do in real life. She loved to run, and I remember a comment she had made that running in Uru was the first time, since she had been bound to her wheelchair, that she ever felt like she could actually run again. When I found out about her illness, it hit me like a ton of bricks:
My best pal and ‘running buddy’ couldn’t run. Period.
My mind reeled. All those things I took for granted in my every day life, that I could run, jump and climb any time I felt like it, go to the gym, slap on my new Armond hiking boots and climb the mountains of the Adirondacks…all those things that I could do, Pepsi couldn’t. It never even occurred to me for a moment that she couldn’t. As far as I knew, she was just like me!
When I found out she couldn’t walk, I got hit by a tidal wave of shame. The pride that I was so warned about through all those months of living and breathing the storyline of Uru came crashing down on me. How could I be so prideful? How could I be so unthinking? We always said, “You NEVER EVER KNOW who is on the other side of the screen.”
So after coping with the knowledge of Pepsi’s situation, and watching a woman put together the Athens Olympic games, I sat down with a few friends and we designed the first D’ni Games in Pepsi’s honor. If she loved to run, then I was going to build her a marathon course, and we did. We had everything you can imagine, from the opening ceremonies to the marathon, all sorts of running events, people playing Ayoheek, diving competitions, you name it, if it was possible to be done with the physics engine of that game and the imagination of the players, we did it.
After three months of planning and countless man hours, over a weekend in October, the games ran for 72 hours solid, the first large scale event of its’ kind ever undertaken. There were hundreds of volunteers and hundreds of virtual athletes, the Myst Universe became a place where people not only solved puzzles together, but where players from around the world came together in friendly competition. There was even a man who made up medals and mailed them to the winners.
The day of the opening ceremonies, we waited for Pepsi but she never came. Her health by that time was in decline. She had gone in for a procedure and the pain made it so that she couldn’t play. She never saw the marathon run and she died three months later on December 28, 2004. But to this day, I don’t take a step in a virtual world or the real world without remembering her.
After I moved back to Las Vegas, I found the Myst Reader in a local bookstore. I soaked up every page. I went through the three novels in a matter of days, chuckling at the screenshots inside the cover of the ages of Er’cana and Ahnonay. The Book of D’ni is my favorite by far, Windgroveisms aside, I found that the relyimah of Tehranee were kindred spirits of mine. In my life I’ve seen the cruelty of other human beings all too often and to see it personified in the shorn heads and black clad bodies of the Relyimah, it made me weep. It also gave me the strength to stand up for myself. After all I had gone through in my personal life, the abuse, trauma and so forth along with the prejudice we were shown when part of the Uru community moved over to There.com only to be treated as relyimah and taking years to become a recognized, positive force in the community, I relented and moved my virtual life to World of Warcraft where my night elf druid named “Relyimah” (after the slaves of Tehrahnee) could literally turn into a great tree, heal those in need and spread the word of the Myst Universe.
I go to sleep every night after reading passages from three books, The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Republic by Plato and The Myst Reader. All three books have helped me become a better person by just touching them. They’re my link to wisdom because I realize what Socrates said was true, “The wisest person in the world realizes they know nothing.” But I also remember that just like the great city of D’ni, things we hold dear can vanish just as quickly as it came to us. The perfection of the city, the time spent in the young days of UruLive, the fleeting time I got to spend with Pepsi, they’re all gone now, but as the great writer I am, those days will live on in my memory, always tied to the beauty of Myst.
I might sound like a lunatic who takes the Myst Universe far too seriously, but to be honest, Myst taught me a lot, it saw me through recovering from addiction, it gave me purpose and it gave me what no one or nothing could. Hope. So to me, I’ll thump my Myst Reader at anyone who will stop and listen. I’m an Uruite, a citizen of the Deep City of D’ni.
Long live the Myst Universe. Cavern Blood Runs Deep.