You’ve entered a clearing in the woods. A strange light is emanating from a wooden chest in the center of the clearing. You must decide whether to continue reading this article or explore the source of the light. If you would like to continue reading the article, please continue to the third paragraph. If you would like to explore the light source, continue on to the next paragraph.
You cautiously approach the chest, dropping to your knees to peer into it. The light is beautiful. It’s calling to you. You lean in closer, and your body is absorbed into the light. You say to yourself without thinking, “it’s glorious. It’s positively glorious” as your features dissolve. You are dead.
You steer clear of the obvious hell mouth trap set in the clearing and instead continue reading this overview of Choose Your Own Adventure, a series of books that was created by Edward Packard and debuted in 1979. These books were a favorite at Scholastic Book Fairs and even though every time I got one I would work my way through one scenario and be done with the book, never picking it up again, I bought them again and again. If you’d like to learn more about the history of the series and my experiences with them, continue on to the next paragraph. If you’d like to meet the mysterious man to learn the secrets of the house you inherited from a great-aunt that you didn’t previously know existed, proceed to the fifth paragraph.
The books were all written in the second person so that the reader acts as the protagonist in the story. While the number of paths through each book was not set, the basic procession would be that the reader would face an initial decision consisting of a few. choices, each of which would lead to another set of options, and then a third part of the book that would present one of the endings to the reader. Continue on to the sixth paragraph for the remainder of this article.
The man tells you that the house carries a terrible curse, and every male descendant who took ownership of the house died shortly thereafter under mysterious circumstances. You laugh, because you are young and carefree and you aren’t going to be scared away from free rent in a beautiful Victorian home just because some old man tells you a ghost story. Your first night in the house you fall down a flight of stairs under mysterious circumstances. You are dead.
In addition to the main series of books there were several offshoots, including a simpler and less scary series for younger readers that I was unaware of until I looked into some details for this article. I’m pretty sure I only ever experienced the main series. Since I had so little patience for re-doing scenarios when my choices led to an abrupt ending, I didn’t stick with Choose Your Own Adventure when it branched out into Disney themed stories or horror books. The books also closely resembled the text based computer games like Zork and Lair of the Minotaur, and since we didn’t have a computer at home until the mid 90s I never got into those, another reason that this style of storytelling was only something I enjoyed on a superficial level. That said, I may have to check out the Choose Your Own Adventure entitled You Are a Genius. Given the title, if whatever path I choose doesn’t immediately turn out to be the best choice I will be very disappointed.
Were you a fan of Choose Your Own Adventure? Which ones were your favorites? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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