13th August 2020
Choose Your Own Adventures
Start up initiated
After the strangest dream (or perhaps it was a nightmare) you awake to find yourself in an abandoned warehouse, empty save for a dim blue glow in the center of the room. You approach with caution and find yourself standing before a dusty computer, the screen blinking at you. As you lean in closer a prompt appears:
You chew your lip in indecision as you contemplate your choice. Eventually, you move your hand across the keyboard and hover above the enter button. As you lower your finger, a noise from behind startles you. Flinging yourself around you spot a small mouse scurry across the floor and relief spreads through your body. Yet even still, you can’t seem to shake an uneasy feeling.
If you decide to follow the instructions anyway, turn to page 138
If you wish to explore the rest of the warehouse first, turn to page 9……
For me, arriving home with a stack of ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ books will never cease to bring excitement and a sense of childhood nostalgia. As someone who can easily finish several books in one day, the concept of a book with multiple endings always felt like a challenge just waiting to be conquered. As a child, I could convince myself that all that time spent lying on the couch was actually a form of exercise – it took a fair amount of contortion to bookmark all the important pages with your fingers so you could backtrack when you needed to. And that was the great part; if you didn’t enjoy the ending, hated seeing your favourite character die, wished the protagonist hadn’t decided to investigate that weird noise, you could go back. You could change things. But the inevitable eventually happened – you grew up, you ran out of reading material, and the stories were forgotten.
Then December of 2018 came around and the entire genre was revitalised with the release of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Available on Netflix, the interactive film allowed viewers to choose the actions taken by the young programmer Stefan Butler as his life becomes more and more complicated. With five ‘main’ endings and small variants within these, the film marked the beginning of a whole new realm of visual storytelling. If you haven’t already run through the entirety of Netflix’s catalogue, I highly recommend giving it a watch.
But don’t get too excited, even though the film was released nearly two years ago and was well received by the public – we still don’t have that many interactive films. Critics tend to be overly harsh of the genre, and many writers are put off by the sheer amount of work required to generate multiple intertwining plot lines for the same story. But, with every tv series having a Groundhog Day or Halloween episode, why shouldn’t choose-your-own-adventures become the new customary trope? I’m not asking for a 2 hour cinematic experience, just 40 minutes. 40 minutes to relive my childhood and experience the thrill of being right amidst the action. Because when you are the one controlling the decisions, every moment is charged with fear and high-stakes adrenaline in a way no other genre can capture.
Fortunately, we live in a world where it’s becoming increasingly common for the ideas of fans to find their way into the official storylines. So perhaps teams of writers are working around the clock as we speak, or rather, as I write. The best we can do is hope!
Ignoring your uneasiness you hit enter and find yourself on a blog. Scrolling through the posts, a few book reviews and suggestions catch your eye. You then notice one titled ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’. You loved these kinds of books so you load the page and a chill washes over you as you begin to read. You feel as if you are in the strangest dream, or perhaps, this is really a nightmare…