November 12, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili
Interactive designer Christian Swinehart posted an extraordinary analysis of Bantam/Chooseco's Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks, breaking down the structure (described as a "finite state machine") and flow of their branching narratives with an series of accessible and even appealing charts.
Swinehart's visualizations of their pages reveal not only a decline in potential endings in later Choose Your Own Adventure books but also a drop in the number of opportunities for readers to make choices that guide the story, focusing more on linear narratives.
You can see a few of the charts after the break, the first one showing how the story, decision, and ending pages are laid out, and the second re-arranging the pages to demonstrate the decrease in interactive options:
My favorite portion of the deconstruction is definitely at the end, where he shares the Easter Egg ending from Inside UFO 54-40, which isn't actually connected to any of the other pages. "It exists as an island, unreachable through choices but discoverable thanks to the random access nature of the book," says Swinehart.
The "Ultima" ending's pages are followed by a fascinating two-page illustration: