Choose your own adventure

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Choose your own adventure (often abbreviated to CYOA; also called choice-based IF) refers to a style of interactive fiction where the game is assembled from a set of story nodes and related choices or hyperlinks. A typical turn in CYOA will begin with a textdump describing the current situation of the game. In some works, the textdump is followed by a short list of explicit options to choose from; in other works, hyperlinks are scattered throughout the text. When the player selects a choice or a hyperlink, the story continues with a new section of the story, which offers new options or hyperlinks. This mode of play, moving from one story node to another, continues until an ending of some sort is reached. Authoring tools for choice-based IF include Twine, Squiffy, Undum, and ChoiceScript, among others.


From about 1981 to about 1995, Bantam published a series of books for young readers (ages 9-12) in which the story was told a page at a time. At the bottom of each page, the reader was offered a choice, along the lines of, "If you decide to stay here and wait for the supply ship, turn to page 12. If you decide to do a little exploring on your own, turn to page 17." Each book offered multiple endings, where the outcome depended upon what the reader wanted to happen next in the linear narrative. There were at least 150 books in the CYOA series, as well as spinoffs such as the "Choose Your Own Star Wars™ Adventure" series, and knockoffs from other publishers who used variations on the CYOA slogan.

Raymond Queneau's story "Un conte a votre façon" ("Story as You Like It" or "Yours for the Telling"), and later Julio Cortazar's novel Rayuela (Hopscotch), both from the early 1960s, are the original works in this one-text-multiple-paths form and deserve mention. The idea was first described in Jorge Luis Borges's 1941 story "El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan" ("The Garden of Forking Paths.")


The term CYOA may be applied in a somewhat derisive tone to an interactive fiction in which the player reads a lot of text and has only limited opportunities to interact with the game. If the choices are morally neutral ("If you decide to go north, select 1. If you decide to go south, select 2"), and the quality of the prose is nothing special, such a game can rapidly become tedious.

Those literary hypertexts in which the page chunks and links are both hard-coded resemble CYOA stories: "If you want to read a short story about Shelly Jackson's elbow, click here. If you want to read a short story about Shelly Jackson's knees, click here." (See "The Body", by Shelly Jackson.) But literary hypertext typically features inline links, and can also include variable (context-sensitive) links. Matthew Kirschenbaum notes a tendency for literary critics to interpret interactive fiction as glorified CYOA.


Collaborative CYOA sites