Before computer games and interactive gadgets became popular, there were books that let you join in the action and have your own adventures. Known as game books, these books were usually set in a science fiction or fantasy world. They told you about the world and gave you a mission to carry out. Then you started reading the story, just like any story, but with a twist.
Let’s imagine you are an adventurer trying to find a missing person. You go to the street where he was last seen. You walk into a hotel and see a number of local people. There is a group of young people at a table talking. An old man sits by himself in a corner. Three soldiers are waiting by the door looking impatient. Who will you talk to?
At this point, a gamebook will give you a series of choices and the numbers of paragraphs to turn to for each choice. So you make a choice and turn the pages to find the new paragraph. You have to make another choice there and so on. In the process, you may find what you are looking for or you might fail. But you can always go back to the beginning and start again.
A lot of companies brought out these books at one time, but the most popular and enjoyable were the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, developed by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. In the pages of Fighting Fantasy you could be a brave adventurer saving a forest from a dark invasion, a daring soul trying to defeat a wicked magician, a heroic spaceship captain lost in space and many more. Solving these games required common sense, courage and imagination. Although they were just words on paper, the adventures could become so real that you could see and feel them. Just the names of the books are so full of magic and wonder: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Citadel of Chaos, Caverns of the Snow Witch, Crypt of the Sorcerer... just reading the names makes you imagine the kind of adventures in store.
The unique thrill of gamebooks still has its following. After many years out of print, the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were published in new editions a few years back. The good news was that there were brand new books being written along with the old ones. And this year, Ian Livingstone completed Blood of the Zombies, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of these books. If you’d like to try these books, make sure you have a sharp pencil and a set of dice so that you can keep track of your character’s statistics and fight battles. If you visit a second hand bookstore you can look for some of the other gamebook series that were popular back then: Falcon, a series about a time traveller, the Virtual Reality Adventures, a series of Sherlock Holmes gamebooks and more.
I’m sure you’ll agree that words, choices and a little imagination can add up to as exciting an experience as anything modern gadgets offer!