The Adventure of Me: How Choose Your Own Adventure Books Foster Interactivity
Choose your own adventures are a lot more frustrating than fans tout them to be. No matter how hard I tried to have an uplifting outcome, I die or someone else dies. This type of display of entertainment requires an active person to experience the game or book. A book can take a passive approach: A reader simply picks up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and reads right through to the end. Some other books require a more cognizant reader, including David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which includes dozens of pages of footnotes. But books like Cup of Death asks the readers to be fully aware of themselves, such as their viewpoints on morals and life, to make their way through the novel. Choose-your-own-adventure forms of entertainment want people to be aware of themselves in an attempt to create reality; however, that reality oftentimes does not have outcomes that likely come from starting at point A and going to point B.
I wouldn’t call The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy computer game my favorite game by any means, but it might have been the most challenging and frustrating game, which is why it still sticks in my mind. A young student introduced the class to the game as part of a supplement to his speech about the 1978 novel. No matter how many times I played the game, I ended up dying due to a bulldozer plowing throw my home and crushing me before I could even advance about 10 of the 400 steps. The game uses keyboard commands such as “turn on lights” or “drop everything apart from towel and babel fish.” The person typing in the commands can only make about 30 mistakes or so before the game ends – which usually means you die. So making small mistakes such as “walk through door” can catch up to the person later in the game.
This is something that differentiates itself from Gilligan’s Cup of Death. Several times, I admit, I would keep my thumb on a page that sent me in several directions, and if Noriko Oda died, I would pick up at the fork in the road instead of starting over. I was aware of my own personal biases in the novel. For instance, when I had to decide which of the four people to the tea ceremony I wanted to follow, I immediately suspected Oda. That’s because I she deals with rare items such as gems, and she had a son with a gambling problem, so I concluded that she must be trying to pay off a likely debt he’s in trouble for.
The interactivity between the computer game and the player is more real than that of the paper book and the reader. In reality, people don’t have the chance to go back and decide to not jump into the trunk of the car, which will eventually lead to witnessing the death of a gem dealer (Gilligan 45). Apparently in a choose-your-own-adventure novel called Inside UFO 54-40, there is only one positive outcome in which the reader is in a heroic position, but you have to actively find the page which stands alone, to which the book congratulates the reader for breaking the rules of the book (Hendrix). However, what’s not realistic is that reality can be presented in a compact form, whether that is a computer game on a screen or a 120-page book.
Furthermore, Cup of Death doesn’t really present a realistic version of life. I didn’t really pay attention to the title of the novel until after death occurred in the novel after my first three times through the novel with the repeated death of gem dealer Noriko Oda. Even in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game, I would be crushed by a bulldozer or mauled by a ravenous Bugblatter Beast. In an interview with Slate, the publishers of choose-your-own-adventure novels said that death, more or less, makes the books feel “real” because just because someone chooses what is perceived to be the moral route doesn’t mean the outcome will make the character heroic (Hendrix). In the Hitchhiker’s game, I was strategizing. When I wake up, I command the game to “get up” and “turn on the lights.” I’m making lifelike decisions that lead to realistic outcomes. I “walk through the door,” and I’m told “You’re on the porch.” And that is the difference between the different mediums of interactivity.
Hendrix, Grady. "Choose Your Own Adventure: How the Cave of Time Taught Us to Love Interactive Entertainment." Slate. 18 Feb. 2011. Online.