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Non-Linear Stories v1.0: Choose Your Own Adventure

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Real Story (thanks to Something Awful)While every boy knows that Fighting Fantasy was like, you know, 900 times better, than Choose Your Own Adventure, the level to which Christian Swinheart goes to dissect the CYOA series is nothing short of phenomenal. His visualizations of the story paths, in particular, are beautiful depictions of a system in operation.

While I won’t bother trying to add anything to Christian’s epic foresight into the series, I have to say I was fascinated by Inside UFO 54-40:

The branch diagram for UFO 54-40 is unique in that it has one ending – the Ultima ending – which is completely disconnected from the rest of the story. It exists as an island, unreachable through choices but discoverable thanks to the random access nature of the book.

This ending was not just an easter egg for the obsessive reader who didn’t mind skimming every page looking for telltale words. Instead it’s hard to miss in even a casual riffling. A two-page illustration showing what could only be paradise (or perhaps a theme park) leaps out as the only spread in the book without any text. Flipping to the page before brings you to 101, where you discover that your curiosity has been rewarded. You have found the planet, not by following the constraints of the system, but by going outside of them – a fitting moral to the story and an encouraging reminder that any game should be a starting point for the imagination, not the end.

Or, in other words, was this a tacit acceptance of players making their own rules by exploring a system? Could this have been emergence in a primordial form?

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