You are the Hero: KickStarter Support and a #1GAM announcement

This post will serve two purposes:

  1. To support Jonathan Green’s “You are the Hero” KickStarter Campaign for a history of the Fighting Fantasy game books
  2. To announce “MaZone”, an upcoming #1GAM #onegameamonth project, which will attempt to innovate in print form on the game book concept

You are the Hero

If this book cover means nothing to you, you are either quite young or very old. It’s by Russ Nicholson and two other guys…

I came across this book in a dusty cupboard that was the Puffin/Penguin book “club”; a sponsored form of school shop that supplied the publisher’s current titles in a ‘sale or return’ arrangement. I’d made many discoveries during the lunch hours Mr. Allen, my first year form teacher and later close friend, gave up running the shop. I think I may have been its only customer in fact. Anyway, he would recommend things he thought I, a voracious reader who had read about 3/4 of the school library by that point, would be interested in. Warlock was a welcome relief from early O-Level revision, as it was waiting for me at the start of the fifth form school year (September 1982). It didn’t do too much harm to my work, thankfully, as I got 5 As 2 Bs a C and a D, but I did ironically fail English, and had to retake that a year later in Sixth Form.

[Kids, O-Levels are not, as you imagine like the Harry Potter OWLs of J.K. Rowling creation, but just like GCSEs really, except you did ALL your assessments in one go – no continuous assessment or coursework! – in a thing called… an exam… while imprisoned in a dusty hall under the watchful eyes of scowling teachers, who’d much rather be drinking tea (or in one case beer or gin) in the lurking smoke-filled staff room. So, actually quite like OWLs, thinking about it…]

For those of us who remember the horrors of Thatcher’s Britain, Miner’s Strikes and the promotion of self-interest over social duty, it may come as a relief to know that
Jonathan Green, who wrote some of these “Fighting Fantasy” books in their heyday, is attempting to celebrate their 30 year legacy.

Many current game designers and writers owe a lot to the green-spined wonders that opened up the idea of non-linear narrative and interactive story telling. Ok, Livingstone and Jackson weren’t the first – there are examples before their first title (shown above), “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain”. Notably Tunnels and Trolls “solo adventures” as well as others – but they stuck somehow. Maybe it was the unique UK writing style, but other brands don’t have the same nostalgia or affectionate appeal as Fighting Fantasy.

Not to say that “Choose you own Adventure”, “Decide your Destiny” and a range of other brands haven’t innovated or done some things better, and (hopefully) Green will cover these, if only to contrast with the FF books as they still compare favourably, in my opinion. However, it is (I believe) timely and topical to consider an official history of this form of literature, especially as tablet computers (iPads, etc) are bringing about something of a resurgence.

You can find out more by clicking the banner below, or Jonathan’s FaceBook Page.

MaZone – A #1GAM #onegameamonth project
When I talked to Ian Livingstone at DragonMeet last month, I asked him if there was any scope for evolution in the game book design. His response was that electronic forms of interactive fiction were probably the best arena for future innovations. I respectfully disagreed at the time, and vowed to try to come up with something that could work in print – still the cheapest and most robust form of distribution – that even he would consider truly revolutionary (or at least different enough to warrant recognition as progress).

So, as part of #1GAM #onegameamonth (See OneGameAMonth for details), I’m planning a multi-player game book that attempt to innovate on the current formula in several respects:

  1. The ability to backtrack and revisit old locations – Ian was clear that this was one area of weakness in the semi-linear story telling of game books, which presents a difficult obstacle for environmentally encoded narrative. Dear Esther has done that wonderfully in video game form, but it would be nice to return to a book and traditional literature.
  2. The option for several people to each use a game book to independently or cooperatively explore the same environment – I owe Alfred Leonardi’s “Ace of Aces” as well as a recent interview I did with him for the G*M*S Magazine podcast for inspiring this idea, which will be the most technical challenge.
  3. The ability to add new books that would work in the same setting, where the uniqueness of each volume would be reflected in both the text and the interactive options available to different readers. The idea here being that one book would allow you to explore a space, but a second would revisit the same locations with different perceptions. For example, a hero would walk along the corridor, but a ghost could float through the very thick wall.

To show MY support for the KickStarter above, I have promised to make the beta of MaZone (a play on Maze and Zone) available for FREE to backers of Jonathan’s book. I am not planning for this to be January’s OneGameAMonth offering, as I am a bit tight for time this month. However, it will be out before Mr. Green’s book is released. I’m sure it will be rough and needing ‘fixing’, and it might just not work or be fun to play/read. However, I am looking forward to trying out something genuinely new in game book design. Fingers crossed.

Now turn to Page 1…

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