October 30, 2006

Computer-based Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Novels

"If you decide to start back home, turn to page 4.
If you decide to wait, turn to page 5. "

I'm not a old-school computer gamer. Yes, I do remember my first computer, it was DOS based and the games on there are the stuff of history. (I think I actually had Scott Adams' "Adventureland" on there . . .)

Anyway, all this talk about text-based computer games put me in mind of my childhood Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels. (My favorite featured a dinosaur island.) Isn't it the same kind of idea just in a different medium? For example, in Dr. Jerz's introduction of Scott Adams, he says, "The intellectual effort required to manage so many potential plots and trying to create a satisfying aesthetic experience out of every possibility is a job that only a detail-loving programmer could manage. However, most literary humanists, the kind of person who decides what makes a good story and what doesn't, are probably not equipped to recognize the accomplishments of an author who attempts such a task." He may be talking about the stories involved in text-based computer games, but he very well could be talking about Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels.

In the context of text-based computer games, you have to make decisions based on what is going on around you and your environment. Because of how limited the memory available for the games was, the choices you could make were also limited. Its the same idea as those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels. Instead of being limited by memory, they were limited by pages. In both contexts, the reader or player is thrown into an environment and asked, what happens now?

I guess in the grand scheme of things, text-based computer games were a level up from those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels I loved so much. The ironic part of all this? Bantam Books started publishing these novels in 1979, the same year "Adventureland" came out . . .

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 9:21 AM | Comments (5)