Monday, 28 April 2008

choose your own adventure games

Inspired by the Lone Wolf post here.

I don't think the idea of CYOA is unappealing to people, even now. But the genre is not as commercially bubbly as it was. Why is that?

Most of the books, even the well-written ones, weren't that special. Writingwise, I mean. They were full of a lot of things *happening*, often rather exciting things, but short on meaning or things to think about. They generally weren't full of passages that you want to linger over lovingly. They're not all that appealing to read again, once you've found all the endings and 'won' the book.

And even if you wanted to just read, you probably can't. You'll end up bogged down in page-flipping (and dice-rolling, if it's one of the books that included combat) and while these things were exciting the first time, on a reread they're obstacles getting in the way.

So - they're sort of throwaway entertainment. Read them, enjoy them, give them back. I went through all the CYOAs in the school library at a rapid pace and had a great time and didn't want to keep any of them. I do own plenty, of course, but if I read one without buying it, I had no interest in buying it later.

Books have gotten more expensive. At the school book fair long ago when my parents told me that I could *not* have a stack of 25 CYOAs (I tried!) they cost about $2 each, maybe less. Sure, sure, inflation, but the point is that $1.50 is small enough that even a kid like me who doesn't get an allowance can imagine scraping together that much money out of change found lying around. And I bet a parent today would be even less pleased at a stack of 25 modern CYOAs for $7 each. Ow.

The computer just plain does it better. The more complicated CYOAs required you to keep track of a lot of data when paths crossed and recrossed. 'If you have the red berry, turn to page 36.' The computer can keep flags for you, it's a lot easier.

There were a lot of websites for a while (maybe there still are) for people to write and share these things with each other, completely free. It's simple - especially if you're only aiming for the 'throwaway entertainment' level. So to that extent, the genre is still popular, just becoming less commercial.

And then there are visual novels, which generally move away from the Whiz Bang Pow action plots of the CYOA and into more character-driven stories... with a lot more meaning, and easier to savor on replay as well...

1 comment:

Davzz said...

Lone Wolf is pretty much the only gamebook series I like, although I haven't really played many of them. I find it hits a good level of having interesting mechanics and not getting TOO bogged up in bookkeeping.

One of the reasons that annoyed me about other gamebook series is that there's usually only "one true path" to win the game, and they usually require the ability to read the author's mind.

Should I enter the right or left door? How the heck should I know, considering I haven't been given anything I can use to base my decisions? Lone Wolf however gives you additional information through your skills and such and thus I don't feel that cheated when I die somehow.

And I agree with the "computer does things better", so it's kind of odd that so far, I haven't seen any Visual Novel adaptations of Lone Wolf type games yet... it seems like the perfect medium to move these sort of games on. A combat skip option could be provided on future replays so players who want to explore all the paths without getting bogged down by other factors can enjoy themselves.