Wednesday, 18 April 2018

To Explore Further, Go To 73 - You Are Now Dead; Return To 1

The times they are a-changing. I can remember a time when phones were things only attached to a wall by wires (and you had to wait if someone else was using it) and, if you wanted to see a programme and weren’t in, you had to find a blank tape and programme the video recorder to tape it (there’s still part of me that wants to use the word “taping” in reference to capturing a programme to view later). We did have computers, though. Admittedly our first computer had a cassette drive and you had to leave it loading for a while before turning the tape over to finish the process but it was a computer with games and everything.

However, given the slow nature of the computers back in those days, we had to find another way to get some game-style action. In the 80s, books came to the rescue. There were two main types of books that were also a game. The first was for the younger reader and was your entry level into the world of booky gaming…

Choose Your Own Adventure
It was a brilliantly simple concept and an early example of interactive storytelling. You read a bit of the book, it gives you a choice where to go next and then you go and read the chosen numbered paragraph. Simplicity itself. Of course, the frustration lay in picking the wrong outcome and ending up dead meaning you had to go back and start all over again (or just skim through until you found the winning solution and cheat. Which I never did).

They had cracking titles like Prisoner Of The Ant People, The Third Planet From Altair and War With The Evil Power Master. Naturally, they inspired imitations - we also had a couple of the Time Machine books; unsurprisingly, my favourite was Search For Dinosaurs which had a picture of T Rex in the front.


Of course, after a while, that started to become a bit stale, especially as I got a bit older. So a couple of smart chaps realised that there was a gap in the market. That there were nerdy types who liked the idea of a Dungeons & Dragons-style but didn’t necessarily want to play in a group and they created…

Fighting Fantasy
Created by Steve Livingstone and Ian Jackson and much like the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you pick your way through the book but, this time around, you need pen, paper and dice to combat the various monsters you’ll encounter along the way. Basically, a roleplaying adventure that you can play on your own. They also were fond of a good title like Deathtrap Dungeon, Seas of Blood or Appointment With F.E.A.R.


They’ve been reprinted on and off over the years with the occasional new title - they’re making a bit more of a substantial comeback at the moment thanks to a new book written by Charlie Higson (of Fast Show and Young James Bond novel fame).

Of course, these books were a gateway drug. An initial taste to hook you in and draw you into a deeper and darker realm. More on that later...

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