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Manovich’s “Navigable Spaces” poses an interesting question about the role of navigating space in virtual settings.  It asks the reader to ponder where the real experience of digital content lies in such mediums as video games; is navigating a digital space simply a means to achieving a game’s objectives, or is the journey in the exploration itself?  Experiencing Myst in lab this week was an interesting forum to gather data for this question.  A quick scan around the room allowed me witness over two dozen different approaches to playing the game.  Myst is rather unique in the genre in that it provides the player with exceptionally little background or exposition before placing them in a first person, digital world.  A variety of reactions were seen in the first five minutes of playing the game from the participants in the room.  There were those who intuitively took it upon themselves to indulge their curiosity and, without immediate direction, start exploring this new environment.  There were others who, once discovering the first clue or two, no longer saw the environment as a playground to explore, but instead an obstacle in their way of finding more pages for the red and blue books.

Finally, there were others who were not engrossed at all by the vastness and newness of their virtual surroundings, but instead decided to break the fourth wall and see the virtual world as a fishbowl inside of physical reality.  These participants pulled up walkthroughs and YouTube tutorials and immediately framed the virtual environment as simply a forum to complete tasks.  These participants were the most fascinating of all, because they prompt the ultimate question; what causes an individual to denounce and abandon an environment?  Was it an admission of defeat to resort to an outside resource, effectively an answer key to cheat what is effectively a game?  Or was it merely a sign of intelligence to go straight to a supreme source of clues, an online answer key?  This abandonment of the journey in favor of the destination could merely be a reflection of our modern, immediate-gratification-driven society.  It could, however, also be a logical assessment of efficiency.