Choice-based interactive fiction
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Choice-based IF (also called choose your own adventure or CYOA) refers to a style of interactive fiction where the game is assembled from a set of story nodes and related choices or hyperlinks. A typical turn in CYOA will consist of a passage of text describing the current situation of the game. In some works, this is followed by a short list of explicit options to choose from; in other works, hyperlinks are scattered throughout the text. When the player selects a choice or a hyperlink, the story continues with a new section of the story, which offers new options or hyperlinks. This mode of play, moving from one story node to another, continues until an ending of some sort is reached. Authoring tools for choice-based IF include Twine, Squiffy, Undum, ChoiceScript, and ink, among others. More authoring systems are listed at Authoring systems for choice-based IF.
The appellation "choose your own adventure" or "CYOA" was once the more common term for this type of interactive fiction. It is still sometimes used interchangeably with "choice", but can be regarded as mildly derisive as the simple, stateless branching narrative trees of the Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks (see Origins, below) do not represent the depth and complexity of many games authored with modern choice IF systems. In 2019, ChooseCo, the rightsholders of the original CYOA series, issued takedown notices to authors on itch.io who had marked their own games as "choose your own adventure" or "CYOA"..
From about 1981 to about 1995, Bantam published the Choose Your Own Adventure series of gamebooks for young readers (ages 9-12), in which the story was told a page at a time. At the bottom of each page, the reader was offered a choice, along the lines of, "If you decide to stay here and wait for the supply ship, turn to page 12. If you decide to do a little exploring on your own, turn to page 17." Each book offered multiple endings, where the outcome depended upon what the reader wanted to happen next in the linear narrative. There were at least 150 books in the series, as well as spinoffs such as the "Choose Your Own Star Wars™ Adventure" series, and imitations from other publishers who used variations on the CYOA slogan.
Raymond Queneau's story "Un conte a votre façon" ("Story as You Like It" or "Yours for the Telling"), and later Julio Cortazar's novel Rayuela (Hopscotch), both from the early 1960s, are the original works in this one-text-multiple-paths form and deserve mention. The idea was first described in Jorge Luis Borges's 1941 story "El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan" ("The Garden of Forking Paths.")
In the early 2010s, the release of Twine opened up IF development to a huge number of creators. Many of these were people from marginalised groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, who found in Twine a means to express their own stories and feelings. Notable queer authors who began creating IF in this period include Anna Anthropy and Porpentine Charity Heartscape. Around that time, choice-based IF began to be taken more seriously in the previously parser-centric IF community of rec.arts.int-fiction and IF Comp, with Porpentine's howling dogs taking 11th place in the 2012 IF Comp.
Following the Twine Revolution, a number of commercial developers such as Choice of Games and inkle began producing choice-based IF for profit. In 2014, Inkle's 80 Days achieved commercial success and critical acclaim well outside of the IF community, winning the IGF Excellence in Narrative Award, Game Developers' Choice Award and Time's Game of the Year.
- A discussion about CYOA on the rec.arts.int-fiction newsgroup
- CYOA books photoshopping contest at somethingawful.com. This one's for fun, not serious.
- Choose Your Own Adventure at TV Tropes Wiki.
- CYOA structures, a series of articles by Sam Kabo Ashwell:
- CYOA structures: The Cave of Time. 05-Aug-2011.
- CYOA structures: Tween Romance. 07-Aug-2011.
- CYOA structures: more Packard. 10-Aug-2011.
- CYOA structures: CYO-RPG. 17-Aug-2011.
- CYOA structures: Spin-offs. 20-Aug-2011.
- CYOA structures: IF. 24-Aug-2011.
- CYOA: Educational. 28-Aug-2011.
- CYOA structures: graphic novels. 11-Sep-2011.
- Hybrid Interfaces: Texture; Contrition (Porpentine); Spondre (Jay Nabonne) by Emily Short. 16-Dec-2014.
- Not All Choice Interfaces Are Alike by Emily Short. 25-May-2016.