Whatever Happened To Choose Your Own Adventure Books?

Kids tore through “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. You could read them multiple times, and they were cheap. There was a low bar for entry (just grab one at the mall), and only one person was needed to “play.” 

At the same time, Montgomery and Packard over-scoped their project. As Montgomery told Slate, “We had as many as 30 to 40 endings in the first 10 to 15 titles. We were burning up storylines like crazy with all of those different endings. … There wasn’t a lot of room for character development, or plot development, or all the kinds of descriptive phrases that you need to build a scene.” 

Meanwhile, Bantam kept wanting more, and Montgomery and Packard went from their initial contract of six books apiece, per Mental Floss, to hiring subcontractors to help them keep up with their workload. By the end, per Board Games Tips, over 30 writers worked on the series.

And yet, David Lebling, one of the programmers of “Zork” (1980), a landmark storytelling title in computer gaming, pointed out the ultimately restrictive nature of the books, telling Slate, “They’re — what? One hundred fifty pages, max? So each page or every other page usually gives you two or three choices, and if you multiply that out that’s not an enormous number of possible states.” 

Bit by bit, the books’ formula grew transparent. All the while, a new medium was rising to take their place: video games.

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