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Choose Your Own Adventure

Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Game.

Gamebook series (from 1979). Bantam Books, Chooseco. Designed by Edward Packard, R A Montgomery.

Choose Your Own Adventure is a line of "variable plot" or "multiform" books for younger readers; the path taken through the text is determined entirely by choices made by the protagonist, without the Role Playing Game-like rule-based mechanics used in such series as Fighting Fantasy. This structure resembles the "tree literature" proposed by the Oulipo group based on the algorithmic operations of computer programs, and first implemented in Raymond Queneau's "Un conte â votre façon" ["A Story As You Like It"] (July 1967 Le nouvel observateur). The primary difference is that in Choose Your Own Adventure the reader is addressed in the second person and the present tense, adopting the role of a protagonist who actively determines the unfolding of the plot, while in "A Story As You Like It" they are presented with a narrative told in the third person past tense, for which they may sometimes choose the path of the story and sometimes simply the manner in which it is told (see Interactive Narrative). In a sense, Choose Your Own Adventure books are games which are meant to be played, while "A Story As You Like It" (as with many subsequent examples of Hypertext fiction) is a text which is intended to be read.

The Choose Your Own Adventure format was created by Edward Packard in 1969 for Sugarcane Island, eventually published in 1976 by R A Montgomery's Vermont Crossroads Press. (Montgomery had previously designed several "educational simulation" games with a similar structure for such organizations as the Peace Corps.) The Choose Your Own Adventure name first appeared in 1978, when Packard's Deadwood City (1978) and The Third Planet from Altair (1979; vt Exploration Infinity 1982 UK; vt Message from Space 1989) – in which the player is sent to investigate mysterious signals from a distant world – were printed by J B Lippincott under that banner. This designation was then reused by Montgomery, who created the final Choose Your Own Adventure line for Bantam Books after leaving Crossroads Press. Bantam began publication with Packard's The Cave of Time (1979), an sf-like work in which the participant discovers a cave leading to many different time periods, including the End of the World. Many subsequent Choose Your Own Adventure books are sf or sf like; for example, the fourth, Space and Beyond (1980), by Montgomery, is a rather undistinguished Space Opera. Bantam Books published almost three hundred titles in the main series and such spinoff lines as Choose Your Own Star Wars Adventure (see Star Wars) from 1979 to 1998, many of them by Montgomery or Packard. In 2005 Chooseco began to republish the Bantam books and later to release new titles, starting with the Ecological sf Forecast From Stonehenge (2007; rev vt The Secret of Stonehenge 2012), by Montgomery. While the quality of individual Choose Your Own Adventure books is variable, both in literary terms and where the structure and internal consistency of their multilinear plots is concerned, their popularity and influence on the development of the Gamebook form are undeniable.

Related works: The Cave of Time (1985 Bantam Software, AppleII, C64) is an adaptation of Packard's novel of the same name for contemporary computers which essentially replicates the gameplay of the book in a digital form. [NT]


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