Myst 3

Karin Wenz, Assistant Professor of English, University of Kassel

A further narrative dimension is added by the technique of mise en abîme, a reflexive structuration, which results in a front-to-back dimensionality, thus creating a three-dimensional narrative space. A reflexive structuration is given through the motif of the printed book. The book is used as a means of orientation. But a secondimportant function of the book lies in its mediation between the reader or user and the narrative worlds. It is the entrance to worlds created by an author or, as in Myst, worlds created by two programmers. The book is the traditional interface. In the case of Myst this interface is doubled in an interesting way: As interfaces of the medium computer, the screen and the mouse are typically named. In Myst an additional interface is chosen which illuminates the narrative function of the traditional printed medium. The narrative space in Myst mirrors well-known narrative spaces in a new dynamic and interactive medium. The spatial configurations and elements in a computer game oscillate between being signs and being images.This means that the images used in a computer game have to be read in away similar to words in a written text. This reading process depends on the underlying program which can be compared to the spatial metaphor of traveling. This metaphor combines the static aspect which is connected to space with the dynamics of time. To travel means to pass different places in time.

As Tabbi and Wutz (1997) have shown, computer graphic interfaces construct a rich 3-dimensional space through the successive layering of 2-dimensional grids.

"These interfaces have been generally understood as visual and spatial. A closer look at the sedimentary overwriting of these grids, however, belies the attempted separation of time and space. A computer graphic is not in itself spatial. ... Every location ... in the grid ... is in fact equidistant from any other location; what separates one point from another is the processing time it takes to link the locations. That many literary commentators continue to regard the electronic image as primarily spatial and immaterial testifies, not only to the abstract, unseen, and generally ignored processes that underlie the operation of a microprocessor, but to the continuing power of the "pictorial turn," a modernist aesthetic that seeks to turn temporal processes into spatial ones" (Tabbi& Wutz 1997).