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66 Original Covers
Oh, my God, they were really the first video games before the textual adventures on a green screen, before the first graphics adventures in two colors and two dimensions, before Atari's Pitfall. They were a paperback video game. A map for the future of interactive adventures. A programmers literary wet dream.
And I absolutely ADORED them when I was younger. I don't know if it was just about getting that chance to make it right whenever you made a bad choice. Or the fact that you really had, like, 28 versions of the same story in one 128-page book, and the writing of that logistically just boggled (and still boggles) my mind. Or if it was about trying to "beat" the formula, whatever that was. Or if it wasn't just really about trying to get it right the first time, every time. 'Cause the thing with these originals (that you won't find in the plethora of copycats out there) is that if you made just enough mistakes, one too many bad choices, and just couldn't pull yourself out of your downward spiral, you were dead, buddy. D-E-A-D. DEAD. As a doornail. The end.
So, you'd flip back to the front, start over, try to make different decisions, but not really remember or even really know where you went wrong, eventually rely again on your internal compass, and...POW!...dead again.
It was positively infuriating!!! And addictive. And such an adrenaline rush!
And it's not like it was ever completely obvious what you should be choosing either. Sometimes it actually was the riskier option that was the right one. But sometimes the more conservative approach kept you on the right path. But not always. And not consistently. It just didn't seem, to my 10-year-old brain, that there was a way to crack the code.
Clearly, there must've been this fabulous looking process flow document out there somewhere. Taped up on someone's wall in their study. An infinite number of rectangles and circles and triangles, all intricately intertwined within a web of double-arrows and carefully placed diamond shapes in green and red YES and NO questions.
And yes, of course the nerdy side of me has seriously considered plotting the whole thing out on Visio, just so that I would FINALLY know.
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The magic I hear in the kids' voices when they make a wrong choice and don't really wanna turn the page. When they have to start over because they just HAVE TO figure out how to survive. The magic in their questions about whether hang gliding or sliding down a narrow tunnel into a pitch-black cave is the better option. It's. Just. Awesomeness!!
And now there's even a grown-up version, I hear. Well, two, actually. One online. And one on Twitter. I haven't checked them out. I can't really bring myself to do it. They appear interesting enough, but there's just no way they're anything like the actual paperbacks. And even if they are, I just don't think I wanna know.