History of Interactive Fiction and CYOA
Interactive fiction got its start in 1959 in the work "Story As You Like It" by Raymond Queneau. In this book, the French writer introduced a style to the world whereas the reader takes control of the story. Later, Julio Cortázar, an Argentine author who wrote in France, followed suit in 1963 when he penned "Rayuela (Hopscotch)". It wouldn't be until 1969 though that Edward Packard would take the genre under his wing when he wrote "Sugarcane Island", a prototype for the forthcoming immensely popular Choose Your Own Adventure series of books. Unfortunately, Edward Packard would find limited interest in his novel for many years as he shopped it around from publisher to publisher.
Finally in 1976, Vermont Crossroads Press (VCP) picked up "Sugarcane Island". This long-sought success was largely due to one of the co-founders of VCP R.A. Montgomery. R.A. Montgomery had designed interactive role-playing games for the Peace Corps, McGraw and others. He loved the format and suggested that the book become a series entitled "The Adventures of You". (The novel was later incorporated into the Choose Your Own Adventure series as book #62.)
Shortly thereafter in 1977, the second book in "The Adventures of You" series was published by R.A. Montgomery himself under the pen name Robert Mountain. The book, well known to later Choose Your Own Adventure fans, was "Journey Under the Sea".
In 1978, R.A. Montgomery sold his interest in VCP and started shopping "The Adventures of You" series around. Fourteen publishers rejected the interactive book series until 1979 when Bantam Books, who was looking to break into the youth market, picked up the idea. R.A. Montgomery was signed to a six book deal and Choose Your Own Adventure Books was born.
To complete the six books, R.A. Montgomery brought onboard Edward Packard and Doug Terman. Doug Terman wrote By Balloon to the Sahara (CYOA book #3). While this was the only book that Doug Terman contributed to the series, Edward Packard and R.A. Montgomery went on to write SIXTY books each in the Choose Your Own Adventure and accompanying series.
During the 1970's, the interactive story idea took root and the format was incorporated elsewhere. In the UK, an interactive series of books named "Trackers" was written from 1972 to 1980 and at MIT, the format was successfully incorporated by a number of students into the interactive text game ZORK in 1977. In the early 1980's, while Choose Your Own Adventure novels were dominating the youth book market, interactive text games from Infocom were dominating the game market. [Play ZORK for yourself!]
Over the next twenty years through the 1980's and 1990's, thirty other authors would contribute to the almost two hundred titles in the Choose Your Own Adventure series. This popular series would go on to sell more than 250 million copies and be translated into 38 different languages. In the end though, the CYOA market lagged, as all fads eventually do, and the series went into "out-of-print" status in 2003.
However, all was not lost. In 2005, R.A. Montgomery, the original champion of the series from the beginning, and his wife Shannon Gilligan (a CYOA author as well) secured rights to it and formed ChooseCo, LLC in order to reprint many of the original books with updated text and illustrations for today's youth. Moreover, additional titles and series were developed to rekindle the love for the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Today, ChooseCo publishes thirty-four books in the revamped series as well as having:
- Created the DragonLarks series for younger kids
- Written The Golden Path, an interactive epic trilogy with continuing plotline throughout for readers ten and older. (This series gave CYOA it's first original hardcover!)
- Developed the first Choose Your Own Adventure series for girls entitled Fabulous Terrible
- Partnered with the World Anti-Doping Agency to publish two books that are against athletic doping and promote good sports values:
- Always Picked Last for ages 8-12
- Track Star for ages 12+
Showcasing its versatility, the interactive story was taken to a new arena in 2005 with the critically-acclaimed one-act interactive computer-based drama Façade created by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern. Façade allows the viewer to play with their own name and gender as the friend of Grace and Trip, a couple in a rocky relationship. In this intense interactive drama, you experience an evening get-together with the couple, your actions and words directly affecting their conflict-ridden marriage and the night's outcome. The "game" is free to download.
In 2010, the interactive book market was once again expanded to now accommodate adults who grew up affectionately reading the Choose Your Own Adventure series in the 1980's and 90's. Author Shawn Harris founded Choose the Ending Books for adults. Choose the Ending books feature R-rated plotlines that appeal to older readers nostalgic for the CYOA style but enjoy age relevant books. His first book "Beer, Women, and Bad Decisions" is additionally available for the iPhone and iPad, implementing links instead of page turns for a new digital audience.