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Clearly, this book means to stand for books as cultural artifacts and symbolic “portals” to connected meanings. As a prequel to the game, The Book of Atrus (Miller et al. 1995) ends literally where the game of Myst begins, its first-person Epilogue repeating the Prologue cutscene voiceover one hears at the beginning of the game, explaining that a lost book dropped into a volcanic fissure earlier in the novel is, in fact, the very same small book that plops down into the darkened, starlit space of your computer screen when you first open the game of Myst.

At one crucial moment in the Victorian story, Verne’s castaways discover and salvage barrels of supplies that have washed up on the beach, seemingly by chance. These include an “inventory” (later to become a key term in all kinds of games) of “tools,” “weapons,” “instruments,” “clothes,” “utensils”—and books. The inventory of books is short but it includes an atlas, dictionaries, and a Bible, as well as three reams of paper and “2 books with blank pages” (186). It’s hard not to see these blank books as the tempting intertextual tabulae rasae on which Myst the game was “authored” by Rand and Robyn Miller and their team of programmers, inspired by their discovery of Verne’s text.

17 “From nothing they must supply themselves with everything,” we are told of Verne’s castaways. In answer, a shipwrecked sailor cheerfully remarks: 34 The game of Lost “there is always a way of doing everything” (37, 26)—which might stand as the motto of any optimistic gamer facing a new gameworld. Behind all the adventures and puzzle solving, there is a nagging mystery to be solved. The castaways in The Mysterious Island, like players of Myst and the plane-crash victims of Lost, discover traces of a hidden presence, signs of an anonymous, paternal, yet invisible hand, which offers provisions and needed equipment, intervenes at moments of crisis, and—significantly—leaves written, textual clues to guide and encourage them.

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