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In Doom  and Myst–and in a great many other computer games–narrative and time itself are equated with movement through 3D space, progression through rooms, levels, or words. In contrast to modern literature, theater, and cinema which are built around the psychological tensions between the characters and the movement in psychological space, these computer games return us to the ancient forms of narrative where the plot is driven by the spatial movement of the main hero, traveling through distant lands to save the princess, to find the treasure, to defeat the Dragon, and so on.

In Manovich’s essay, “Navigable Space,” the author brings up the interesting idea that, as in the classic video computer games Doom and Myst, one’s spatial, 3-dimensional movement through a medium guides their progression, and thus the narrative that they create. They themselves have the sole power and control over the progression of the game. If they are to stop, then the game will remain at a complete standstill, unaffected by passage of time or other factors. The completion of the game depends on how much 3-dimensional space the player covers. Only when they travel through and encounter all areas of the grid will they be able to advance further in the narrative of the game.

In this week’s lab, I was able to see this phenomenon with my own eyes, as I was immersed into the mythological world of Myth. I had never played the game before, so I was slightly confused as to how to proceed, but eventually I got the general gist of it. I was to wander around the island that I was placed in, looking for clues as to what I was supposed to do to advance myself in the game. I found myself wandering the island, walking its paths, entering its buildings, reading through scraps of paper and books left behind by the character who had previously resided on the island. I explored the spatial gridlines of the island step-by-step, and indeed found the endeavor quite relaxing. Unlike many modern video games of the 21st century, there was no time limit or deadline in which I had to have a certain mission or goal completed. I did not have to rush through the setting with a specific concrete goal in mind, paying little attention to the features and phenomenon as I passed by for fear of losing time. In fact, much to the contrary, I found myself “stopping to smell the flowers” per se. I was able to pay more attention to the buildings, the color of the trees, the water, the curve of the path, and I slowly but surely began create a spacial map of the island in my head, so that eventually I knew where I was and how to get from point A to B without referring to any map or aid. The game of Myst allows the user the freedom and flexibility to carve their own path and to form their own narrative through the “Navigable Space.” They develop a much more personal relationship with the game, and the final outcome is very much a product of their own actions and movements. Indeed, “Navigable Space” very much reflects a simple reality, in which our actions and spatial movements paint the narrative and direction of our lives, and the world of Myst becomes us.