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January 6, 2012 8:26 PM   Subscribe

"There's no way we could have programmed a moral ending for every story line . . . Life isn't that way. Choose Your Own Adventure is not that way. Choose Your Own Adventure is a simulation that approximates the choices that we face in our lives." Choose Your Own Adventure: How The Cave of Time taught us to love interactive entertainment. (previously)

On the origins of Choose Your Own Adventure: "According to Packard, the core idea for the series emerged from bedtime stories that he told to his daughters every night, revolving around a character named Pete and his adventures. Packard stated, "I had a character named Pete and I usually had him encountering all these different adventures on an isolated island. But that night I was running out of things for Pete to do, so I just asked what they would do." His two daughters came up with different paths for the story to take and Packard thought up an ending for each of the paths. "What really struck me was the natural enthusiasm they had for the idea. And I thought: 'Could I write this down?'"

Demian Katz has collected many Choose Your Own Adventure books and catalogued them here, with pictures and general book information. Some of the stories could be a bit grim back in the day.
posted by SpacemanStix (41 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man. I didn't think it was possible for me to have more affection for this series than I already did, but this is seriously awesome:

from article: "'From the outset, we wanted Choose Your Own Adventure books to be non-gender specific,' Montgomery says. 'It was a conscious decision.' ... The no-gender policy proved difficult to maintain when Bantam hired artists to draw covers and illustrations for the series. 'In the text I was always extremely rigorous never to have anyone refer to the reader as 'he.'' Packard says. 'But Bantam insisted it be a boy because they had market research that said girls would identify with boys but boys would never read a book where 'you' was a girl. That was a big problem because most of the covers were of boys and most of the illustrations were of boys.' It was a move that Packard believes lost readers: 'I think we lost a huge number of girls to The Babysitter's Club.'"

Mr Packard, Mr Montgomery: wherever you are now, I salute you. Bravo.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 PM on January 6, 2012 [42 favorites]


"My intent was to try to make it like life as much as possible," Packard says. "I didn't want it to be a random lottery but I didn't want it to be didactic so that if you always did the smart thing you always succeeded. I tried to balance it."

Mission accomplished, you bastard.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:48 PM on January 6, 2012


Garth Nix's Down to the Scum Quarter (PDF warning!) which is a lampooning of the choose-your-own-adventure genre.

I read these books ALL THE TIME as a kid. Loved every one. Especially the 'logical decision leads to an improbable death' endings.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:48 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Garth Nix's Down to the Scum Quarter, lovingly preserved by the Internet Archive.

If you are carrying a halberd or five-pronged fish spear, Go to 50.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:50 PM on January 6, 2012


.... dammit.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:51 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Choose Your Own Adventure? I laugh heartily. Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy all the way baby.

Found a first edition of Warlock of Firetop Mountain a few months ago for a fiver. Like my teenage comic book collection, I wish I'd never sold my FF collection...I had all of them up to book 50.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:53 PM on January 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Out of the Pit, Titan and The Trolltooth Wars were all amazing too.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:54 PM on January 6, 2012


Ellen Kushner, really! A side of her I somehow managed not to know before now. She's had a really interesting career in the arts.
posted by trunk muffins at 9:03 PM on January 6, 2012


When I was in fourth grade I got to sleep over at my best friends house. We were put to bed twice, with stern warning to go to sleep. Late in the night his mother heard faint noises and opened the door to check on us again. What she saw was two sleeping bags lumped up with light peeking out from the edges. Pulling one back, she discovered the reason for our curfew violation.

We were each laboriously toiling away at writing a choose-your-own-adventure for the other to read through.

I can tell you, needing to write all those alternatives is a lot of work! I determined the best strategy was to have one sentence between each decision point to keep things moving.
posted by meinvt at 9:04 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Found a first edition of Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Heh, I still have one of those kicking around. Good times.
posted by mek at 9:21 PM on January 6, 2012


If the Choose Your Own Adventure books had wanted to simulate life, they should've abandoned the core conceit of the series that one's choices matter. It should've all been go to page 66.
posted by planet at 9:24 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Choose Your Own Interpretation Of The Grim Inevitability Of Death?

I remember the ine where you turn into a monster and, through a series of events, become a successful movie star in France.
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mystery of Chimney Rock freaked me the fuck out.

I still have my original copy of Cave of Time.

Great post! Thanks, Spaceman!
posted by tzikeh at 9:28 PM on January 6, 2012


I miss the CYOA books.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:38 PM on January 6, 2012


Fantastic post! Reading these books paved the way for my imagination and vocabulary. Would highly recommend to any parent wanting to get their child interested in reading and having tons of fun doing it.
posted by Meatafoecure at 9:48 PM on January 6, 2012


House of Danger was one of the few I owned. Filled with bizarre shit, it seriously colored my childhood thinking in pretty awesome ways. The old guy blasting a door off its hinges with the lightest touch of his hands, for example, still rocks my socks.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:48 PM on January 6, 2012


The Choose Your Own Adventure novels constitute one of those things that make me genuinely grateful to have been among the last children not to experience a fully digitalized childhood.
posted by threeants at 10:04 PM on January 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


...in my own sociocultural context, of course. Not too many Somali kids growing up today with iPads.
posted by threeants at 10:05 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Between these books and Colossal Cave Adventure, I'm pretty sure I had no choice but to get into programming as a child. I recall I wrote several primitive CYOA-type "books" in BASIC on our first Heathkit computer. Rawr.
posted by introp at 10:06 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I liked Choose Your Own Adventure, but I preferred You Be the Detective and You Be the Jury.
posted by robcorr at 10:12 PM on January 6, 2012


I recall I wrote several primitive CYOA-type "books" in BASIC on our first Heathkit computer. Rawr.

Oh man, I did too, on our TI 99/4A. I wanted to program something like Scott Adam's adventure games, but it was too complex for me to figure out how to do the language parser, so I instead would create a story around a series of decision events that I would navigate programmatically with GOTO statements.

Around that same time, I have memories of sleeping over at my grandparents house and taking an entire bag of CYOA books with me that I had just checked out at the library and staying up late at night reading them. These definitely helped create an initial love of reading for me, and I look forward to passing them on to my children when they get older.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:13 PM on January 6, 2012


Choose Your Own Adventure? I laugh heartily. Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy all the way baby.

I loved em all! I was reading CYOA in 1983 in the US and then FF in the UK in 1986. I also read most of (but not all -- Laser Tag Adventures?) the knock-offs they mentioned in the article. The D&D books, Lone Wolf, Which Way...gateway drugs for interactive fiction, indeed.

I wish I'd never sold my FF collection...I had all of them up to book 50.

I recently found a FF torrent, which I've mined to replay books that are in a box in my father's basement (probably never to re-emerge). So that's out there, FYI.

I read some pretty positive reviews of a new massive gamebook with the dubious name of DestinyQuest: The Legion of Shadow. I'm tempted to get it, but if I have to be honest with myself, I cheated at all those gamebooks back in the day, using nine of my fingers as bookmarks as I turned it into a game of Choose Your Own Ending.
posted by Edgewise at 12:07 AM on January 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Choose Your Own Adventure novels constitute one of those things that make me genuinely grateful to have been among the last children not to experience a fully digitalized childhood.

I suspect that this will make you cringe rather than smile, but I've recently heard of a few gamebook apps for iOS/Android. If you think about it, it's a no-brainer. Yeah, the software's not complicated, but these days, pretty much everyone knows the value of simplicity.
posted by Edgewise at 12:23 AM on January 7, 2012


if I have to be honest with myself, I cheated at all those gamebooks back in the day, using nine of my fingers as bookmarks as I turned it into a game of Choose Your Own Ending.

Oh yes indeedy, that made me laugh with delighted memory. What I love was I still tried to rationalise it to myself - as if it actually mattered how I read, and that I had to lock in one choice!

These books are why I don't like sandbox style games; there must be one true path!.
posted by smoke at 12:32 AM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


A bit of Amazon clickery-pokery from the DestinyQuest link threw up Fabled Lands, which apparently spans across multiple books. Sounds quite cool, anybody played/read them?
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:36 AM on January 7, 2012


Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy all the way baby.

FF was alright. I loved CYOA, in particular Deadwood City and the Cave of Time. I thought most of FF's titles didn't quite rise to the same level, until I read The Citadel of Chaos. I absolutely loved that book, especially the artwork. Floored me as a budding D&D player.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:18 AM on January 7, 2012


Found a first edition of Warlock of Firetop Mountain

My gateway into Satan worshi...I mean, D&D.

Prior to reading this, D&D / roleplaying was one of two things:

- a computer game on an Intellivision at some kid's house who wasn't my friend but I'd pretend if it meant I could play the console; or

- that thing from The Greatest American Hero where kids ran around sewers and used tarot cards and there were skulls and candles and girls and oh god where can I find something like that in this hick town.

So, my mum fell in with some lady whose whole life was winning radio competitions. She had two sons, both a fair bit older, and as they were also quite a bit more well off than we were, their stuff was doubly awesome. One day, while watching The Man From Atlantis on Betamax, I saw this book on the floor. It was dark, stormy - NeverEnding Story weather (though I hadn't seen that at the time - maybe Goonies?). And I was instantly, utterly hooked. I asked if I could borrow it, and was told I could keep it.

And as I was reading it on the steps of the council library, some older kid asked me if I played D&D. No, I said, because I didn't know how. 'You just need a module', he said - 'it's pretty much like that book.' And he showed me his +5 Basic Red Box of Awesomeness, and that was my life for the next decade.

I have a boxed set of the first nine (?) books packed away ready for my two boys.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:41 AM on January 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I liked Choose Your Own Adventure, but I preferred You Be the Detective and You Be the Jury.

I loved Choose Your Own Adventure, but I loved Encyclopedia Brown even more. Even if my success rate probably wasn't that great.

"25 cents per day, plus expenses"!
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:58 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was one CYOA (Hyperspace, maybe?) that had a page you couldn't get to without cheating. I oved that.

And Chimney Rock freaked me out too.
posted by neilbert at 5:52 AM on January 7, 2012


While I (sadly!) hadn't seen any of those books while growing up, as a kid I absolutely loved the HeartQuest series. I have a couple of them tucked away (along with all the old Serendipity books) for the kiddos. The ones linked above look really cool though, and thank you muchly for the catalogued link, I may have to start looking for more of them to collect.
posted by meowf at 6:42 AM on January 7, 2012


neilbert, that one was Inside UFO 54-40. And I loved that one, too.
posted by koeselitz at 7:17 AM on January 7, 2012


I tried to write one of these once. My working title was "Cory Doctorow has a Bad Day at Work".

Barnacles review made diet coke come out my nose.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:34 AM on January 7, 2012


There was one CYOA (Hyperspace, maybe?) that had a page you couldn't get to without cheating. I oved that.

neilbert, that one was Inside UFO 54-40. And I loved that one, too.


You might enjoy scrolling to the bottom of this page.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:53 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I loved these books as a kid, and also made a few basic CYOA in HTML and also as a series of linked documents in Microsoft Word.
posted by codacorolla at 8:00 AM on January 7, 2012


I read stacks and stacks of these things as a kid in the late 80's and early 90's. They were still selling pretty strongly in the mall bookstores (remember those?). The Cave of Time was the one that really freaked me out, specifically the ending where you stumble into a sabre-toothed tiger's lair and wake it up, complete with very well done illustration... *shudder*

While I devoured most of the series, that book - the very first one - had a special place of honor on the highest shelf of my bookshelf. The mere act of reaching for that book would send a thrill of fear running through me.
posted by pianoblack at 8:39 AM on January 7, 2012


Steve Jackson's Sorcery! gamebooks were superior to his Fighting Fantasy books in every conceivable way.

There was a separate spell book, which you were expected to actually memorize and not refer to during play.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:12 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorcery!, one day I will beat those damn seven serpents without cheating.
posted by khaibit at 9:17 AM on January 7, 2012


The Forbidden Castle is my favorite CYOA.
So much so that I bought it off eBay a decade ago.
posted by luckynerd at 10:51 AM on January 7, 2012


I still have some of the HeartQuest novels from the 80s-- yeah, they had sappy romances attached, but the main character was a sorceress or a druidess, or a female warrior, and for the most part, she got to be in charge.

HeartQuest novels got me into fantasy reading, and a couple of decades later, here I am getting ready to play Skyrim while my partner prepares to traumatize some of his friends while running an online D20 game.

CYOAs rule.
posted by ElaineMc at 3:33 PM on January 7, 2012


And, while we are at it, let's not forget Be An Interplanetary Spy - fully illustrated CYOA style books for the younger set or just the Sci-fi fan. One of my favourite finds in recent times is a torrent of the full run (minus one book) of the 20+ series - sadly, they currently live on my external hard drive, which has a burnt out motor.
posted by cerulgalactus at 9:37 PM on January 7, 2012


The Mystery of Chimney Rock in graph format
posted by blueberry at 8:41 PM on January 20, 2012


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