(just so as it’s not all angry ranting on a monday)
So, between finishing the Great Alta books and starting Clan of the Cave Bear, I read the first 2/3s of Star Trek: Voyage To Adventure.
Voyage To Adventure is the quintessential example of what I call a quantum game book: not only do different choices affect the immediate course you’re on, they circumstantially alter the background reality to the exclusion of all others once a choice has been made.
The first choice you make determines which group of adventures you will have access to. The second choice determines a more specific adventure within that field, and sometimes the 3rd choice is where the final adventure path is set, with all of its possible good and bad outcomes. But each adventure path results in a solidifying of that reality over the other possible realities. For example, if you choose the Engineering track, one of the first choices you’re given is whether to begrudgingly accept Lt. Grogan’s order to swab the deck or whine to Scotty that a Star Fleet Ensign ought not be doing something so demeaning as swabbing the decks. If you whine to Scotty, you have one of two adventures in the Jeffries Tubes, and it ends with Lt. Grogan having no hard feelings, Scotty congratulating you on saving the Enterprise, and all three of you having a laugh together. However if you don’t whine to Scotty and actually swab the deck, in a surprise twist, Lt. Grogan is actually a Klingon spy who’s trying to sabatoge the ship. One ending, Grogan is patting you on the back. The next, he is an alien and he is shooting you. In a similar quantum shift in another adventure path, the choice to go down the hall in one direction results in the alien race being aggressive and evil, while the choice to go down the hall the other way results in the same alien race being peaceful and benevolent.
Anyway, the purpose of this is that I wanted to try to come up with a taxonomy of game books. This list is by no means comprehensive. If anyone has some other types, please list them, and I’ll add them.
Single Track to an Ultimate End – This type of game book is fairly rare, I think. The main example I can think of are the Zork game books. In these books, there is a fairly singular path that one is intended to take from beginning to end and any divergence from it results in death. There’s usually no purpose in going back and re-reading to get different endings, because every junction has a choice that leads you further along the story or to death. You might look at the death choice, just to see what would’ve happened if you made the obvious wrong choice, but you’re going to just keep going along until the bitter end.
Branching Paths to many ends– The old branded choose your own adventure books were typically these. Each book was more like a series of short stories that would crystalize with each choice you made. The initial choices would set you down on the path of which of the adventures you’d take, and subsequent choices would determine how the adventure you chose turned out. Occassionally, such as in my old CYOA foe Daredevil Park, there were no good endings, but usually there was a mix of good and bad endings. A lot of times, there was no ultimate best ending, just equally good endings among a slew of equally bad endings.
Branching Paths to an Ultimate End – The best examples of this kind of book are the Escape series, the Lone Wolf series and the old Nintendo books. These books have several paths you can take, not all leading to death, that will eventually take you to an ultimate ending. If the books are part of a series, the ultimate ending is a canonical ending and certain paths in subsequent books represent canonical paths (you may not have had the Somerswerd because you didn’t buy the early books, but the canonical Lone Wolf sure as hell did, and probably had an easier time of it, too, because of that). This type needs to be further broken down:
-Explore and find the end-
The Escape From books are open ended, in that you could virtually explore the entire world, sometime with different things happening when you visited a place a second time, but ultimately your goal was to get to the ending of the book.
-Find and Fight your way to the end-
The Lone Wolf books were not entirely open ended, and many paths would close to you after you proceeded ahead. This could result in you missing out on cool items that would help you finish the book without cheating. Regardless of what items you had to help you or what choices you made, so long as you didn’t die in a fight or get a non-standard game-over, you’d eventually end up at the end of the book, going on to the next one with whatever goodies you’d found along the way.
-Find your way to the best end-
The Nintendo game books from the early 90s tended to have a lot of choices, and depending on the book, you’d find various things that would have various outcomes. There was usually a happy ending that you worked toward, and sometimes you could even get there with a few screw-ups along the way, but there were also plenty of bad endings. The bad endings were often way-out and weird situations that you’d gotten yourself into, but weren’t quite the non-standard game-overs of Lone Wolf’s “You choose to fight way too many bad guys” or “You fell in swamp because you didn’t choose the wilderness proficiency” variety. They were often nooks, crannies and alcoves to explore and either escape from or die in.
The only example of this I ever owned was “You are Eric Sunsword: Legendary Knight of the Northern Marches”, and for much of my childhood I was confused by it, as I did not have the matching “You are Neves: an Ancient and Powerful Wizard” book. Each person was supposed to take turns reading a ‘chapter’, fight the monster, get the treasure, spring the trap, and move on while looking for the other person. Ultimately, the two players are supposed to fight each other to the death with the treasures they amassed in the ruined castle, but, since I didn’t have a 2P, I aimlessly wandered the catacombs looking for an evil wizard who wasn’t there. There were one or two non-standard game-overs, but the main way of losing was by losing all your hp, dying in a fight or being killed by a trap, in which case you were supposed to turn to a page in the back that displayed a masoleum of your character, and text “Here lies Eric Sunsword. He gave his all for love, but it was not enough.”