Adults who were children when I was, or possibly a little younger, will remember the old Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I remember the first time I stumbled upon one of these, and it was absolutely riveting. It was about at town called Deadwood, though whether it was Deadwood city or simply Deadwood, I cannot remember. I thought it was completely brilliant at the time, and eagerly devoured or of the choose your own adventure series as fast as I could check them out from the library.
Now that I am an adult, two questions occur to me: the first 20 being, why have I never seen my own children reading Choose Your Own Adventure books? I don’t know when they stopped being actively published. Indeed, for all I know, they may still be actively published, and I just don’t see them. I do know that near the time I was in middle school, in the late 1980s, some publishers, most notably TSR, had added dice rolls to the narratives, and turned them into what were effectively solo role-playing games. In fact, last year a friend of mine sent me, as a Christmas present an adventure that was, essentially, one of these role-playing books, which I believe was funded through a Kickstarter. It seems likely to me that the advent of cheap video games which were far more engrossing and the rising popularity of formerly nerdy hobbies such as Dungeons & Dragons is likely the reason that these books lost their popularity among school-age children. They simply had other things that were better for scratching that choose your own path itch. I have seen, however, that the “visual novel” style of videogame in which the story is everything and actual tactical, strategic, and reflexive combat is nearly nonexistent seems to herald a rebirth of these old books in a new way.
The other question that I have is a bit more complicated: why have such books never been thought appropriate as actual literature? It seems to me that there is nothing inherently less challenging in the format, and while almost all the books of this type that I have read have been aimed at children, there is really no reason that it would always have to be so. Science fiction, fantasy, and superhero comics have all, at one time or another, been denounced and ridicule as the literature of children and the mentally deficient. And yet, now, in the 21st century, they have become, more than ever, part of the mainstream literature. We even call the comics “graphic novels” now.
So, what say you, readers? Do you think there is a place for serious branching paths literature? Can the reader discover great truths in such a work? Can a writer discuss profound questions of choice, consequence, philosophy, and other matters of substance in such a format? And if not, why not?
Oh, and most importantly of all. IF I WROTE SOMETHING LIKE THIS, WOULD YOU READ IT??
I would very much be interested to hear your responses.