Fiction is a Three-Edged Sword

Fiction, interactive fiction and narrative

CYOAs, remembered


A nostalgic article on CYOA books of old published in Fantasy magazine. Things like this make me think, was I just born twenty years too late? And do these books have to be for children?

The other interesting tidbit is this, from a writer working for one of the original publishers:

Endings for the series had nothing to do with logic—there simply had to be one-third happy endings, one-third bad, one-third neutral.


Author: joningold

Jon Ingold is a writer and games designer from Cambridge, UK. He is co-founder of inkle, a company specialising in interactive narrative for mobile devices. He has written prose, plays, short films as well as interactive fiction, both in hypertext and parser-based systems. His short stories have appeared in Interzone magazine and his IF works have won competitions and awards.

7 thoughts on “CYOAs, remembered

  1. Dunno, we might be getting a resurgence. I just found out about DestinyQuest, a new gamebook series that just started in January. There’s also some new works for the Kindle popping up as well.

  2. I browsed through an adult-oriented CYOA in Barnes & Noble around 2002. It dealt with serious career issues, included some explicit sex scenes, etc. Not my cup of tea.

    • I’d like to think there was a middle ground between sex and jobs, and dinosaur adventures.

      • Dinosaur sex workers?

      • There have been espionage books, military adventures, some set in the worlds of adult SF and fantasy novels, etc. CYOA (and gamebook and RPG solitaire) writers have at least _tried_ to target just about every age-group and interest.

        Not all of these have thrived, and not all of the older ones stick as clearly in the public memory as the children’s titles, but they’re out there, and they still trickle out into the world regularly 🙂

  3. While the faddish boom died out years ago, CYOA has never entirely disappeared from the commercial scene … I don’t think a year has gone by where I haven’t bought at least one new one (and I mean new-new, not just new to me). There’ve been multiple adult ones over the years (both “adult” in the bland sense and in the spicy sense) and lots of tie-in series for the kids (Star Wars: Clone Wars and Doctor Who have both had fresh CYOA runs in recent years). Those “choice of …” games are a recent new example too, and more.

    Heck, I even got paid a decent check to write one for a magazine a few years back.

    So no, it’s not too late to join the fun (as a reader or a writer) and you don’t even need to dig into the oldies, just grab the latest 🙂

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