Gamebooks and the Materiality of Reading

Authors

Keywords:

gamebooks, interactivity, reader-oriented theory, Choose Your Own Adventure, Fighting Fantasy

Abstract

The essay discusses how the gamebook form derives specific traits, affordances, and limitations from its being a material technology for the creation of meaning. These elements are discussed in the perspective of the author designing a gamebook and that of a reader navigating the text. The discussion allows us to understand the surprising resilience of the gamebook in today's digitally mediated world, as it is precisely its material nature that gives it a unique positioning in the field of interactive entertainment. After demonstrating the relevance of the gamebook in the present, the article discusses the material elements of the gamebook's three components: the section, the text, and the link. We see how the partition of the work into sections may interfere with the partition of the physical artifact into pages; how the inalterable fabric of the text can relate to a population of diverse readers; and how the explicit nature of the links can create peculiar types of spoilers. The impact of the spatial disposition of the sections in the book is discussed also. Next, the article analyzes the tension between the structure of the gamebook, which proceeds by prescribed reading paths, and the fact that the book is materially open to unauthorized interactions. The discussion focuses on purposeful departures from prescribed reading paths (cheating) and cases in which the author creatively exploited the material nature of the gamebook through mechanisms that require abandoning the narrative tree to be fully appreciated.

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Published

2023-11-11