I want mystery in all artistic styles and genres after playing Scorn


If Scorn gives us HR Giger’s Myst, why not Syd Mead’s Myst? Or Cyberpunk Myst? Or root Western Myst too much?

On the surface, Scorn couldn’t look less like Myst. The 1993 adventure game was set on a picturesque island, complete with majestic pine trees and sleek machines made of shiny metal and pristine mahogany. Looks like the place where the president of Harvard would take his staff for a retreat. Scorn, on the other hand, is dark, grotesque and imposing. In his cyborg world, it can be hard to tell where metal and concrete end and flesh begins. Using his machines is like engaging in a kind of functional sex, sticking his fingers into membranous computers that seem to be powered by the blood of meowing creatures imprisoned in pods.


I only played about 90 minutes, but the game showed me such sites before. Myst is clean, Scorn is dirty. Myst is respectable, Scorn looks like porn from an alternate dimension where buildings are at the center.

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But, at their core, both are the same kind of puzzle game. Both require you to interface with complex machines, without any kind of instruction, in order to solve intricate puzzles. In Myst, this machine could be a glorified abacus. In Scorn, this might involve moving tumors to reach a capsule containing a strange little creature so you can use their severed arm to operate a machine. Both, however, take a Bean Dad-like approach, asking you to consider the can opener and see if you can guess its use.

Looking at the same design philosophy powering both games, I’m struck by how many different genres Myst’s approach to puzzle design could be applied to. Most genres have room for weird machines. Developer No Code took a similar approach in its observation influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey and its 80s-inspired puzzler Stories Untold.

Although there have been some great cyberpunk games in recent years, none of these games have really focused on the robotics that occupy the backgrounds of their worlds. Cyberpunk 2077 has braindances and cybernetic implants, but wouldn’t it be fun to play a game that required you to understand increasingly esoteric cyberpunk technology, forcing the player to internalize the rules and work with new technologies? to solve puzzles in a streaky neon cityscape?

If cyberpunk isn’t your bag, a western version of Myst could also work (although when you combine westerns with weird machines, you’re probably just making a steampunk game). A tutorial might have the player solve an elaborate puzzle to gain access to the lobby. Or the entrance to the Black Hats’ hideout could be closed off with a revolver, the cylinder of which must be operated like a rotary telephone to gain entry.

If Scorn’s appeal to you is the overt influence it draws from HR Giger, may I interest you in a Myst-style game emulating the aesthetic of Giger’s alien colleague Syd Mead? Mead, at least as much as Giger, has defined the science fiction aesthetic of the past half-century. His paintings of the future are uncluttered, with elegantly curved buildings that soar into the sky like chrome seagulls. Although Mead’s work is often associated with utopian science fiction — the images accompanying “The World If…” memes draw heavily from Mead’s work — he was also the art designer for Blade Runner, the definitive dystopia of the movie theater. Mead ran the gamut, artistically depicting the best and worst paths society could take. A game set in a Mead-inspired world could similarly draw inspiration from dark and light. Solving puzzles in a timely manner could lead to a more utopian ending, while taking too long could veer into Blade Runner territory.

At the heart of all of these games – real and imagined – is the belief that playing with tools is fun. So, of course, the natural brand to associate with this genre is obviously *confused grunt* Home Improvement.

NEXT: Scorn’s First Puzzle Is A Trash Can


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