Interactive Stories Philosophy

I remember the first time I read a choose your own adventure book.

My face lit up like a Christmas tree when I realized what I had in my hands. An adventure, that wasn’t completely pre-scripted?

Actually, it was all scripted, but which ending I landed on was not. My story would be different than the girl next to me, who was reading the same book, and it depended on our choices.

Reading transformed into a living adventure. My own mind and decisions were controlling the ship. Or were they?

While I loved the concept of the CYOA books, I always found them to fall short in one absolutely critical area. The choices were completely meaningless and random. Do I walk into a closet or go downstairs?

I never knew what to choose, because I had no basis for making the decision. The results were always random, dumb luck. I would walk downstairs into the mouth of a tornado monster, which is cool, but I felt ripped off because in real life I would have heard the tornado monster or peeked first.

But no, I was forced into a predetermined death sequence based on nothing of substance. It was just a fun gimmick. I wanted more than a gimmick.

It was because of this dynamic, that my focus quickly shifted away from CYOA books and towards video games. In a video game, I could make so many decisions and they all had varying impacts on the game world. However, the games with varying story lines were scarce (until recently, with Mass Effect and Fable being notable cases of giving your character choices that alter the game world and your experience).

But still, with video games, it wasn’t usually clear how your actions and decisions affected the journey. Most of the time, you still travel along a pre-scripted path.

Why am I waiting for someone else to make a choice-based story that makes me feel the weight of my decisions? Why am I waiting for someone else to fix the typical stale formula of backtracking, redirection, and contrived plot devices in interactive stories?

I’m a writer. I’m creative. I love stories. I can easily create a website, market it, and do the intangibles. I have a lot of experience with choice-based entertainment, and plenty of new ideas to try.

I’m not waiting anymore.

I’m here, giving this a shot. At the least, it will be a fun failure, and at the most, I’m going to alter the face of entertainment in the 21st century. The latter is what I’d like to do.

Next I’ll discuss some of the biggest challenges in interactive storytelling (and perhaps some ideas to solve them).