Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Do you reason with the grue? Turn to page 19.
November 11, 2009 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Beautiful data visualisations of the original Choose Your Own Adventure stories. A project by Christian Swinehart.
posted by creeky (36 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
But how useful is this, honestly, when, provided this information any choice can still unpredictably lead to treasure or death!?
posted by tybeet at 8:35 AM on November 11, 2009


Heh, I read a couple of those books as a kid.
posted by delmoi at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2009


This is great. I loved these books! I even remember writing some of my own shorter versions, binding them in construction paper and loaning them out to classmates.

Here's a giant image collecting all the old CYOA covers (click the smaller image to get to the big one).
posted by brain_drain at 8:46 AM on November 11, 2009


Wow. Thats way more thought than I imagine anyone has given those old books.

I used to love them as a kid. A friend of mine wrote a few over on this site which is dedicated to writers of the Choose your Own Adventure type stories.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 8:54 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


So much win. Thanks for the post.
posted by billysumday at 8:59 AM on November 11, 2009


tl; dr
posted by bardic at 8:59 AM on November 11, 2009


I always cheated, flipped through the books and found all the "catastrophic" endings first. Is that morbid?

One that stayed with me is being eaten alive by tiny monkeys from "Altair." Thanks a lot, CYOA writers!
posted by ostranenie at 9:18 AM on November 11, 2009


I read "CYOA" as "Cover Your Own Ass".
posted by bDiddy at 9:23 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if it really is tl; you can at least have a little gawp at the pretty animations...
posted by creeky at 9:27 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to love these sorts of books as a kid. My parents used to buy them because I wore out normal books too fast. Now, I distantly sort of wonder about CYOA books and free will as a metaphysical concept.
posted by strixus at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2009


I loved those books as a kid and this is really beautifully geeky.
posted by tjd05404 at 9:39 AM on November 11, 2009


The images at the bottom of the page (Ultima) are of the book referenced in this AskMe.
posted by sanko at 9:50 AM on November 11, 2009


Exhaustive and impressive data visualization wrapped up in a bow. Interesting in how those books became precursor's or advance familiarization with a hypertext navigation system or narrative, ie,: the web.

I read crazy amounts of books, but they were too sacrosanct to me to even consider the blasphemy of a CYOA type book. Although that certainly didn't stop me from using my imagination, it was less of a real world application than a survival mechanism for me and me alone. Wish I'd been less of a serious kid and just had some fun with the CYOA books. And I've come to realize fun is one of the highest mental and emotional states possible in humans. When you're having fun, you're basically tapping into genius. Your own and that of others. Just needs to be actualized in the outside world.
posted by Skygazer at 9:50 AM on November 11, 2009


These are some of the most gorgeous data visualizations I've ever seen. Let's hope Bantam doesn't take issue. What a beautiful example of the intersection between data and art.
posted by scarylarry at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2009


Great concepts and visualizations. I love the disconnect between the sophistication of the visualizations and the basic uselessness of them.

The article was a bit too much to absorb unless you are slightly insane, which the author clearly is in a good way.

I was 9 when these books started coming out and it paralleled my interest in computers and interactive games very well. From a social perspective this is also interesting as this is around the time in my childhood development when making choices in the real world was starting to get real.

The books were easier :)
posted by jeremias at 10:05 AM on November 11, 2009


This is pretty great! Thanks. It's particularly great because the visualizations serve as a jumping-off point for some interesting thoughts on the books. A lot of similar "visualization" projects end up as nothing more than attractive but unexplained blobs of colors and lines.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:06 AM on November 11, 2009


And creeky is right: you seriously don't want to miss the thrilling animations.
posted by scarylarry at 10:06 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ooo I loved those books! I couldn't read them without obsessively holding my place, so that I wouldn't miss any story arcs. His visualizations were great, I just wish his font was a little more readable.
posted by fermezporte at 10:22 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I read pretty much all of these books, I loved them.

I also was a coward and would always skip ahead while leaving my pinky on the previous page I just left. Wait -- this is turning bad! Retreat!

So in effect I didn't choose my own adventure so much as metaphysically experience all possible dimensions of my adventure in the same timeline.
posted by cavalier at 10:23 AM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I loved the way CYOA books worked; I was "good" and actually worked my way through them before reading all the endings. But then I liked to go back and analyze how the choices worked. Much like this artist did, but without pretty graphics.

It was like a literary flowchart.

Do you climb mountain? Y--->fall off cliff. N--->make it home alive.

Or a little like diagramming sentences, where one offshoot flowed into another.
posted by emjaybee at 10:26 AM on November 11, 2009


I loved these stories as a kid
posted by cmarambulo at 10:44 AM on November 11, 2009


re: those that cheated while reading these books...

i did a low end version of these visuals in the form of bookmarks. basically when i had to make a choice i'd mark the spot with a post it or piece of paper and follow one path. then when the path split again, another bookmark. basically the entire book would be filled with bookmarks until i found an end, then i'd backtrack to the last bookmark. eventually i'd read the whole book without having to go back to the beginning and start all over again - because really, who wants to reread the beginning again and again?
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 10:48 AM on November 11, 2009


That AskME thread has a conversation about some of the gruesome deaths in the CYOA books, which reminded me of one in particular which struck me as a fate worse than death: I don't remember the title of the book, but it's the one where aliens arrive on Earth and are building energy domes that noone can see through. One of the endings has the aliens zap you with a weapon that destroys your short-term memory. The end describes you waking up in a hospital while a doctor explains to your family (or someone) what happened, which you immediately forget, and then you start to wonder why you're in a hospital, and then you forget, and then you start to wonder why you're in a hospital, etc.

Pretty creepy stuff to read when you're eight years old.
posted by Target Practice at 11:46 AM on November 11, 2009


This is just fantastic. Thanks!
posted by Methylviolet at 1:07 PM on November 11, 2009


This is very nice work. Great find.

The images at the bottom of the page (Ultima) are of the book referenced in this AskMe.

Yes!
posted by cortex at 1:08 PM on November 11, 2009


I used to love them as a kid. A friend of mine wrote a few over on this site which is dedicated to writers of the Choose your Own Adventure type stories.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 11:54 AM on November 11


Don't try to trick us, we know that all of the endings in your CYOA stories are catastrophic. Unless you're Randolph Carter.
posted by JHarris at 1:21 PM on November 11, 2009


That AskME thread has a conversation about some of the gruesome deaths in the CYOA books, which reminded me of one in particular which struck me as a fate worse than death

I vividly remember an ending where a witch turns you into a mouse, and the horrifying part is that you initially remember that you used to be a human, and you try to do something about your predicament, but gradually your memory and intelligence fades, and all you can think is eat-run-hide.

THANKS A FUCKING LOT, CYOA.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:25 PM on November 11, 2009


Wow. What a flashback.

If only we could keep our pinky on a page and retreat back to it when things turn sour in the real world.
posted by Diag at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


How beautiful. I did an art project a few years ago that was essentially a CYOA walking tour of the city, and took away two things:

1. The books are still fucking awesome and stand up to revisiting.
2. The technique for setting the story up requires a lot more referencing and switching than I'd ever have imagined, presumably using a better method than my one of sewing long lengths of thread between index cards in a big matrix on the sitting room floor.
posted by carbide at 3:04 PM on November 11, 2009


My local library had a whole shelf of these books, and I'm sure I read most of them. I made my own set of numbered bookmarks so once I reached an ending, I could go back to the last story branch and choose the other options. That was my systematic system for reading the whole book. Sometimes I would then go through and rank the ending from best to worst; it would frustrate me that the 'logical' choice didn't often lead to the best ending.
posted by Real.Wolf at 7:46 PM on November 11, 2009


a CYOA walking tour of the city

Sounds similar to the Mission Stencil Story in San Francisco a couple years ago, which was neat!

(I'm also a fan of Christian Swinehart's Flickr photos, with lots of golden-hour industrial lettering.)
posted by dreamyshade at 11:36 PM on November 11, 2009


1. Those visualizations are awesome. The animations especially are beautiful.

2. Those visualizations are useful and make an interesting point about how these books changed over time. It makes me really curious: Did the authors/publishers realize that they were taking a different approach, reducing the number of choices and endings? Was it a deliberate choice, and if so, why? Were the earlier books seen as too hard or too convoluted for the target audience? Or was it Swinehart's suggestion that the early books represent careless experimentation with the technique that was later restrained as the medium matured?

3. The way UFO 54-40 rewards you with the best ending for "cheating" / "thinking outside the box" / "refusing to let your enjoyment of a book be restricted by the rules" is awesome.

4. This post is fantastic. Thank you.
posted by straight at 10:25 AM on November 12, 2009


Eh. I love all flavors of CYOA, and have been collecting them in the hopes that my daughter will eventually experience the same pleasure. But this analysis isn't that interesting-- it's a lot of data-for-the-sake-of-data but it doesn't really elucidate anything interesting. It's like counting the number of times "e" appears in each book-- who cares?

This is a more interesting CYOA diagram-- it simply maps out the course of one book, but in greater detail so you actually remember what it was like.

R.A. Montgomery has started up the CYOA brand after it went away for a while. Unfortunately he was the worst of the CYOA authors, and the books being reissued are pretty dull.

As for CYOAs that target grown ups, the few that have come out tend to be "adult" (e.g. Create Yr Own Erotic Fantasy) or camp (Escape from Fire Island).

One notable exception is Life's Lottery by Kim Newman. It's a remarkable work-- an imagining of one man's life in England, cradle to grave, that contemplates all the subtle ways that decisions shape destiny. It's definitely not for kids (too dark, too much sex & violence) scattered throughout-- but if you're grown, I highly recommend it.

Demian's gamebook page is the definitive source for info on books of this type. It has a fairly exhaustive bibliography. Some of the more interesting/obscure ones are listed on my user page. ("Choose Your Own Jewish Adventure" anyone? It's a historically accurate gamebook; some of the endings are quite grim.)
posted by jcruelty at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2009


(never reason with a grue!)
posted by salishsea at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2009


(are you saying you're disagrueable?)
posted by hippybear at 4:23 PM on November 12, 2009


I always go back to Something Awful's alternate titles thread (starts slow and some NSFW but never fails to make me laugh).
posted by nanojath at 9:03 PM on November 12, 2009


« Older "It is the business of educated people to speak so...  |  Nabokov, Meet 50 Cent: Zadie S... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments