Of Adventures and Choices

Of Adventures and Choices


Greetage, one and all.


A quick musing today, on a matter which is currently foremost in my cerebellum: Choose Your Own Adventure games.

You know the ones, right? From the early days of Fighting Fantasy and all things Steve Jackson to the modern phone games and visual novels, these are games wherein you read text and make choices to decide what happens next. You know it.

They began as books; I spent many an evening as a kid, playing through adventure game books such as ‘The Wanderer Returns’, book 3 of the Cretan Chronicles. By Hades, Altheus was pretty much a childhood friend to me, no matter how many times I drove his ship into rocks or got him et by a big cat.

Anyway; you know the sort. If you don’t, turn to page Fuck Off.

Lately, I’ve been working on two CYOA games, in the new-fangled online/app format. One is a personal project called Hipster Quest and the other is a paid copywriting gig, TBA.

So the structure has been forefront in my mind lately and it’s such a curious thing. I’m not going to launch into a big article about how best to approach these things, because I don’t honestly know and also I’m tired and lazy. But I will share my topmost layer of brainscum; aren’t CYOAs funny?

In the writing of Hipster Quest and Secret Project Oooh, I’ve had to really wrangle with the way in which the story is told. Do you give the player the chance to totally skip a certain paragraph which include some development? Do you put the same development in the other branch? Does that just render the choice null? I suppose the answer to that hypothetical is to have different character development arcs or plot points in different branches, but sooner or later those branches will converge.

In other words, it’s a strange medium which often requires you to cut things out and keep things vague, for two reasons- to make several optional paragraphs fit together in one flow and to keep text short and economical. This may sound like a drawback of the format, but it’s actually just a difference, because it’s counterbalanced by the benefits of the format. You get to choose the adventure, play a game, re-read the book with different circumstances and most interestingly, you feel the triumphs and trials of the characters because they’re your own triumphs and trials, brought about by your decisions. Of course, hardly any of this applies to Hipster Quest in practise, because as you may have guessed, it’s a comedy game and pretty short, with little branching except to provide silliness.

Note to self; triumphs and trials. Ace gamebook series title.

So if you’ve fallen out of touch with CYOA games, pick some up. Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Series is now available as a cool mobile app, adding features and animation to the existing book. The company Tin Man Games is also hugely reviving these books as apps and releasing some of their own, even with major IPs like Warhammer 40k. They’re currently working on a new, digital Warlock of Firetop Mountain!

Anyway, those are my musings for today. More on Hipster Quest and the Unknown Project when they’re nearing completion.

We recorded a new episode of Don’t Lose Your Headline last night, so that’ll be arriving some time on Monday! Any news or comments for us? Send ‘em in.

Turn to page Go Away.

by Bret

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