The Comfort of Childhood Media During Lockdown

March 29, 2020

Amanda Hess, writing for The New York Times:

Myst Time is the opposite of News Time, Twitter Time and Doom Googling Coronavirus Projections Time. The immersive beauty of Myst feels particularly suited to a quarantine: At a time when I can’t go anywhere, it makes me feel far away, surrounded by lapping waves and opulent rugs and actual mist.

But sheltering in place has also activated a strong nostalgic urge. In this, I don’t think I’m alone. Last week, my colleague Astead Herndon imagined being quarantined with old Windows computer games like Minesweeper and 3D Pinball Space Cadet; I recently caught my husband playing a reconstruction of The Oregon Trail on a browser. (“You died of dysentery,” he told me.)

When I saw Herndon’s tweet, I immediately searched for iPhone versions of early ’90s point-and-click adventure games like Sam & Max, Day of the Tentacle, The 7th Guest and Myst — and commenced my reversion. The demand for isolation has knocked me out of my adult life and sent me into a state weirdly reminiscent of childhood, which is the last time I was confined to my bedroom, my free will constrained by a higher authority. I used to play Myst hunched over my family’s hulking PC, home-office doors closed to the rest of my family, and now I play it with my phone in my face, mind blinkered to the rest of the world.

Hess is definitely not alone in this. I am now re-examining my media choices since quarantine began.

When quarantine was imminent, I fought the urge to find a functioning CRT television and Nintendo 64 before lockdown. Since, I’ve been reading Jeff Tweedy’s memoir which reads like a long lost journal of my own childhood, at least before Tweedy’s and my musical careers deviated — he has one, I don’t. We’ve been spinning a lot of ’80s records in the house. (As I write these words, we are listening to Apple Music’s ”80s Soft Rock Essentials” playlist.) We watched Back to the Future last night. And like every other Switch owner, my wife and I are escaping to Starrbucks, our Animal Crossing island — serenaded by sloshing waves and an acoustic guitar loop that somehow never overstays its welcome. (Friend code SW-2603-2234-0921. Come visit. Bring oranges.)

I have extremely fond memories of Myst — experiencing it with both step-father at home and my father 350 miles away. (I touched on this in my review of The Witness and a post about a rumored Myst television series.) I’ve jumped into it once or twice on iOS. It is nice to tap into those old memories. And the mystique of Myst (no pun intended) is one that I’m always chasing. (Queue yearning for LOST, BioShock, Annihilation, The Room iOS games, etc.)

What I could really go for is an iOS port of the 1992 remake of Sierra’s Quest for Glory: So You Want to Be a Hero and a macOS port of Sierra’s Johnny Castaway screensaver.

Quest for Glory Death Sequences Animation