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April 15, 2012 / jwaxo

Myst III: Exile (Age and Wisdom)

Choosing the best screenshot to draw probably took longer than writing this post did.

At some point in our lives we all realize that our parents do not have some secret manual to the world. That they, just like us, are making things up as they go along, applying guesswork to their years of experience to try to raise us the best they can.

My moment came sometime in 1998, and is, like almost all of my stories, embarrassing.

I was 10, and we were going to see a PG-13 movie.

Let’s recall a few facts that you might remember about Li’l Jeff: he was a scaredy-cat, afraid to go into some rooms in video games just because there were frightening things in there; he very rarely disobeyed is parents, half for fear of getting in trouble but also because he absolutely trusted them; he loved movies. Because of (and somewhat in spite of) these facts, he had never seen a PG-13 movie, to his recollection. Ever. There was the threat of getting in trouble for being underage, but there was also the looming threat of finding something absolutely frightening in them that he wouldn’t be able to get out of his head. Heck, I had nightmares just from seeing a Child’s Play 3 trailer, and that was a horror-comedy.

Almost all dolls are creepy. Cabbage Patch Kids, for example.

So on this particular night, there was a huge group of kids, including myself and my siblings, going to see a movie while our parents were all at a boring party. Our dad dropped us off at the theater, gave us money, and reassured me one more time that, yes, seeing this one PG-13 movie wasn’t going to kill me. I, for one, was scared out of my mind, shaking with nerves, ready to pretend to get sick to get out of seeing it.

The movie was, to my eternal shame, the Drew Barrymore movie Ever After.

Soon after the movie ended, I was relieved that absolutely nothing frightening at all had happened the entire movie, but also confused. This brought my entire life into question. Ten whole years of having the fact that I was too young for PG-13 movies was now being called into question.

It was there that I began that path to adolescence that we all must travel down. I began questioning (mostly secretly) everything our parents had ever told us. After all, if they had been wrong that all PG-13 movies weren’t for watching, they could be wrong about so much more. What did they know? They were just older.

And I, incorrectly, decided that age means virtually nothing when it comes to worldly knowledge. All it meant is that you were more likely to know more: decision-making and problem-solving had nothing to do with knowledge.

Being older just meant you would get more Jeopardy! questions right.

So, basically, all of the usual stuff that kids believe. Until, that is, Best Friend gave me Myst III: Exile for our 13 birthdays. Officially the last day of my young childhood, I was somewhat nervous to plug the latest game in the Myst series into my computer. I remembered how ridiculously hard the first game had been, how many years it had taken me before I finally cracked the final puzzle with the help of a walkthrough. But I was also excited: this time I would beat it without any walkthroughs. No matter how long it took, no matter how many wrong tries and incorrect puzzles. I would finish it without outside help, barring casual input from my family.

The game was beaten within a few months, and, once more, my world was shaken.

It wasn’t easy . Not in the usual sense. But any puzzle I set my mind to, I was able to reason out. I was able to apply the years of learning and experience, the years spent increasing my ability to reason and figure, to solve every single puzzle in that magnificent, awesome game. Well, except for the last puzzle, but seriously. It was next-to-impossible.

What this meant, quite simply, was that I was wrong. My parents could still be wrong, yes; anyone can be, once in a while. But their decades of living over my few years meant that they had not only accrued more knowledge and information, but experiences that would give them a much bigger handle on any situation that I could get myself into. Whether I was trapped on a world created to instruct me in the careful balance required when writing linking books, trying to find my way out by solving the dozens of puzzles, or if choosing a movie appropriate for my young son to go to, having an extra thirty years would undoubtedly make me better at it.

Another ten years later I would try to beat Riven, the first sequel to Myst. It remains unbeaten.

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