Okay, I confess. I’m a gamebook geek. I’ve loved these things ever since I was a kid and they’ve never really lost their appeal for me. From the outright silliness of some of the scenarios — I mean, really? Why am I even IN this dungeon? Why would I roam about in this monster-infested swamp risking my life to collect some wizard’s magic mushrooms, or the fabled Weapon of Cursed Death for some whining villagers, or whatever? Don’t I have a real job? — and the madness of the sudden-death scenarios — who sets these Rube Goldberg booby traps, and don’t they have anything better to do? — the Fighting Fantasy series is just crazy fun.
Enter Creature of Havoc.
You are the Creature of Havoc, in fact. Apart from a few hints about vaguely reptilian body parts and the fact that you don’t speak English, you have no clue who you are. Where are you? No idea. What is your purpose? You apparently have none.
It’s the kind of concept that could only work in a gamebook. And it’s beastly fun. It’s also very difficult – there is only one true way through this book and you get no clues as to where you’re going wrong. Nada.
It did get me thinking about the future of interactive fiction, though. Why aren’t there more choose-your-path stories in fantasy and paranormal today? You would have thought that ebook would be the perfect format for this — no more restrictions on how many paths you can fit in 400 paragraphs — but no one really seems to be doing it. There are some cool games from places like choiceofgames.com that work on the same principle, but they’re apps, not ebooks. Still, everyone’s banging on about ‘transmedia’ being the next big thing (without actually knowing what the hell it means, mind you) and wanting authors to ‘experiment’ with stories – surely, this is it?
Are readers just not interested? Is the idea of reader choices affecting the story just old and tired, and no one wants to do it anymore? Or is it authors who aren’t interested?
What do you think? Would you read a choose-your-path story in your favourite genre? Not necessarily one where you fight goblins and roll dice or whatever – but a multi-ending story where you choose what the character does, and accept the consequences?