There are a lot of tattoos I want to get, when I can afford it. I’d like to be the old lady just covered in tattoos; frankly, I can’t wait to see what nursing homes look like 50 years from now. It’s gonna be tattoos, green hair, and heirloom XBoxes from hell to breakfast. Anyway, one of the many tattoos I would like is the Star Fissure from Myst on my back, because Myst is another one of those games that is really, really important to me.
When I was a kid, we had an NES for a short while, but after that it was just the few games my grandparents had on their computers at their house, which is how I ended up much more comfortable with PCs than with consoles at an early age and became the kind of insufferable dork for whom less-than-cutting-edge graphics can ruin a game. I’m not immune to the charm of 16-bit remakes, especially when they’ve had the cruel coin-op edges sanded down, but I’m sorry, I do not understand how the drama of Cloud and Aeris was ever in any way emotional. How can you get choked up about the suffering of a dude with a bowling pin dangling from each shoulder and a skull shaped like a milk carton?
I got really obsessed with Myst, read the books and became very nerdy about the lore. The power of words to create worlds, and the idea of quantum dimensions separated by branching probabilities, are two ideas that came from that obsession and have absolutely shaped my current work. Moreover, I think I found Myst, especially the main island, to be a kind of refuge. It was a completely different experience from the rest of my life at the time.
I only got to play when my grandparents were otherwise busy, so I was never bothered. We all played on the same save, and wrote down notes – little sketches of symbols, descriptions of levers, questions to answer – in a notebook kept by the computer. We all worked cooperatively this way, and I was able to contribute just as much, because in the world of PC games in 1993, we were all noobs and being older didn’t help. Being allowed to do something difficult, requiring lateral thinking and attention to detail, and not having control wrenched from me every few seconds to demonstrate how badly I was doing, but having my input respected and welcomed… it was intoxicating. Being somewhere quiet, where every sound and movement was in my control, where no one could ever possibly surprise me by appearing where they hadn’t been before… I felt safe. Safety and agency. Myst gave me what my family was supposed to, precisely because it made my family leave me alone. Video games became a place I could hide where they would never try to follow.
So I want to get the Star Fissure tattooed on my back, below a quote from Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.”
A world of words, it starts with waves and me,
on one side, a sloping hill and a door,
on the other, a dock but no far shore –
just me, infinite silence, and the sea.
Over time, I color in the silence,
purple groan when
Sirrus in blue with his cold, smiling rage,
Achenar red with impotent violence.
I burn the pages and the linking books
make my home in the planetarium
soon begin forgetting the world I’m from
fish in the fountain with tiny fishhooks
a world of nothing but ocean and sun.
No one will find me cause no one will look.