Gamebook seems like a concept created before its time; prior to the days of interactivity and user power the internet and digital media now offer, rarely did audiences get a say in mass-produced media; publishing in particular.

Below I take a look at how gamebooks have changed as technology catches up with interactivity and ask, which is the better platform for this unique medium, print or digital?

Printed gamebooks


‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ (1979-1998)

What are they?

Printed gamebooks were hugely popular in the 80’s and 90’s (the era of Dungeons and Dragons), when Young kids were enticed by adventures they could control. With few families having TVs in the 80’s, it was a great way for kids to escape and have some fun – the non-linear storyline giving their imaginations a good workout.

For anyone who hasn’t read a hard-copy gamebook, here’s how it works: Written in second person, you are the protagonist in the book. After a few paragraphs you are offered a set of questions about what you will do next, each option corresponding to a page number. You turn to your chosen page and carry on reading and making decisions until you get to the end of the book, the final chapter reflecting the consequences of your choices.

Digital gamebooks

What are they? Essentially they work in the same way as the original gamebooks – you read the story as the protagonist and create your own destiny by choosing what to do next. The key difference is interactivity; instead of turning to the page of your choice you tap the screen which takes you to the corresponding page.

With the abilities of digital platforms, digital gamebooks can incorporate features like:

– Responsive, intelligent soundtrack
– Incorporated mini-games
– Difficulty levels
– Social sharing
– Leaderboards
– Bookmarking
– Video clips
– Game stats

With so many more endings and results – based not only on your choices, but your difficulty level, objects picked up and health statistics – the experience has a completely different feel to it.

So which platform is best?

A quick search in the app store results in hundreds of gamebooks, each with unique and developing interactive elements. While print has the nostalgia and imagination factor, it seems like gamebooks were made for mobile, iPads
and computers. Since the digitisation of gambeooks, the interactive elements have become almost unlimited and will undoubtedly continue to grow as technology develops. Saying this, nothing can take away from the creativity and innovation of the printed gamebook, a concept ahead of its time. It should never be forgotten, but should continue to grow and develop on digital devices.

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