Choose Your Own Adventure created a demand for interactivity among its readers, but the series itself was becoming less interactive as time went on. "In the early days of CYOA, we—when I say we, I mean myself and the other writers—had quite a few more endings than later on in the series," Montgomery says. "We had as many as 30 to 40 endings in the first 10 to 15 titles. We were burning up story lines like crazy with all of those different endings. And it was fun, but even if it only took six, seven pages to get to an ending, there wasn't a lot of room for character development, or plot development, or all the kinds of descriptive phrases that you need to build a scene."I was never a huge reader of the CYOA books as a kid. In fact, I only ever recall reading three of them, Sugarcane Island, Deadwood City, and The Third Planet from Altair, none of which were, at that time (this would have been 1977 or 1978, I believe), marketed under the name "Choose Your Own Adventure," which happened only later, by which time I'd moved on and would soon by playing RPGs. Still, I'm certain these books played an unconscious role in preparing me and many others for later entrance into the hobby and the article is well worth a read, if you have the time.
It was a simple matter of page count, imposed by the physical restrictions of book publishing: A 118-page story can only let you deviate from the main narrative so far. "A Choose Your Own Adventure is almost the epitome of not giving you choices," says Lebling. "They're—what? One hundred fifty pages, max? So each page or every other page usually gives you two or three choices, and if you multiply that out that's not an enormous number of possible states." Christian Swinehart has charted how the number of endings declined as the series progressed, a sure sign that narrative was taking precedence over interactivity. But interactivity wasn't vanishing, it was evolving and books were no longer the optimal medium with which to deliver it.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Reader Michael Fitzgerald pointed me toward this very fascinating article on the history and development of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series. Here's a particularly interesting quote from it: