You’re reading a book; an action-packed adventure story. It’s informative and draws you in, but most importantly, it has a protagonist you can relate to.
The main character is you.
The story is your choice.
You are reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book and love it–not just the book itself, but the style. You can’t stop turning the pages and trying different endings and storylines and cannot wait to start another book.
If you want to continue reading this article, then do not turn to another page.
If you are hit with a feeling of nostalgia and would rather Choose Your Own Adventure, read the rest of this article anyway.
Since it began in 1979, the Choose Your Own Adventure wave has resulted in over 180 titles in 36 languages to the tune of more than 250 million copies in print. After a brief hiatus from the presses, the venerable series is back and moving into the 21st century.
Founder R.A. Montgomery started the CYOA series with “The Abominable Snowman.” Each book is written in the second-person and you play the role of the main character. Readers are given choices and decide on a course by turning to different pages Each book has many possible endings and side stories, some with over 100 variations. Furthermore, you can continue reading until you attain a favorable ending if you, as this author did in his first read, die in your first attempt.
Interactive storytelling is not new. Montgomery believes that is dates back to the oral tradition when listeners would frequently participate in directing the narrative. In 1964, Argentine writer Julio Cort zar published the famous interactive novel “Hopscotch,” where readers could go through the chapters in different sequences for different stories and outcomes. Penguin also published the British “Tracker” adventure series. Montgomery received further inspiration from behavior simulation games and economics game theory.
In the 1960s, Montgomery worked for Apt Associates. Based in Cambridge, MA, Clark Apt’s company designed behavior games, including a model for the Pentagon that developed role profiles for Soviet politicians , scientists and military personnel and was used to determine predictability in defense strategy. Montgomery left Apt to design role-playing behavior simulations for middle school students.
One of Montgomery’s first endeavors was the Energy-Environment game that gave the children roles in environmental and corporate policy conflicts. The game included optional primary source reading material which the young participants began to read as they became more engrossed in the game.
“That’s the power of the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ paradigm,” Montgomery said. “It really puts the reader in the center of the action and decision-making.”
In addition to Energy-Environment, Montgomery took his games to the Peace Corps where he developed and executed simulations to solve members’ disputes and mediate problems rooted in the Vietnam War.
Montgomery was also a teacher and amateur writer who penned short stories and poems while a student at Williams College. He took the interactive approach to children’s books in the 1970s when he wrote “Journey
Under the Sea” in the “Adventures of You” series. The line evolved into Choose Your Own Adventure, which was picked up by Bantam Books. Bantom published it until the series faded out of print in the late 1990s. By that time CYOA had soon become cemented as a legend in children’s literature, enjoying tremendous success due to its popularity and presence in libraries.
Montgomery decided it was time to bring the series back.
He and wife, Shannon, resurrected Montgomery’s creation by starting their own publishing company, Chooseco, in 2004. The company re-published the books which Montgomery still held the rights to. Chooseco is based in a six-person office in Waitsfield, Vermont and has re-published the first eighteen CYOA books. The company and books have adapted to modern technology. The re-published books have been updated to incorporate computers and modern technology and the company is using its website to push and supplement the print editions. Chooseco started with the first six titles republished in 2006 and has posted additional endings on its website, which readers can access by solving puzzles. In addition to the online endings, Chooseco does its business on the web and has already sold 900,000 copies in the past six months.
“Everyone remembers ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ from their childhood,” said Chooseco Marketing Director Amy Jurisich. “They really developed my love of reading and now they’re doing that for a new generation. Part of it is how they make reading fun. You try different things and before you know it, you’ve read the entire book.”
CYOA is continuously adding new books to its line of classics and has used close to twenty different writers. R.A. himself has written 65 in both of his series. Chooseco is launching a new series of suspense books–aptly titled “Choose Your Own Nightmare.”
“The books to mix 90% adventure and 10% substantive information,” said Montgomery. “Our goal is to is to instill a lifelong love of reading and also to encourage decision-making and problem-solving skills, to let the kids know they have the right to fail and not be afraid to try different things.”
With 250 million volumes in print and a notoriety that landed the series a sacred Family Guy allusion, Choose Your Own Adventure has not failed its mission.
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