- Choose Your Own Adventure
- February 10th, 2014
Last night Chris and I came across a box of "choose your own adventure books" from one of our childhoods (I don't know which, it's creepy but we had a lot of the same stuff, like we were both obsessed with Pet Shop of Horrors, Sorcerer Hunters, and H.P. Lovecraft). It inspired this conversation:
Me: I remember these books. They were so random. "Do you turn left or right?" You pick left and there is an alien space ship hiding around the corner and you die a fiery death of doom and experimentation.
Chris: What are you talking about? It was impossible to die. They were written for children after all.
After further debate, we decided to settle the issue by playing one of the books.
It begins on a train. Our companion's aunt vanishes while standing next to an ornate, mysterious box. Our first question is: "Do you go for help, or do you open the box?"
In unison: (Me:) Open the box! (Chris:) Go for help!
Me: But someone might take it if we leave it here. This could be our only chance to find out what's inside. The knowledge could save us all.
Chris: Or kill us. Maybe opening the box is what made the aunt disappear. The people we go to for help might be able to tell us more about what's in the box.
At this point I begin to wonder if the only reason I died all the time as a kid was not because the decisions were random, but because I lack common sense. So I decide to play the game Chris' way and observe what happens. My suspicions seem to be confirmed as we go through several decisions and Chris almost always picks the opposite solution I would have, which also means he's always playing it safe. But when he reaches the end of his story line, he does not get a happy ending. Only a mediocre one. He saves the aunt, but he does not solve the mystery. Because he never took any risks that would have led him to make any great discoveries.
Feeling a burst of confidence now that I can see that playing it safe does not always equal success, I proceed to play it through my way.
Chris is horrified by my choices, and maybe with due cause because almost immediately we're lost in a Vampire fog while being pursued by wolves. Our companion falls off her horse and is lost. I'm preparing to go after her when Chris can't take it any more.
Chris: She's dead. Do not leave the group to go alone into a disorienting fog full of wolves and vampires.
Me: But how would you feel if you were alone in a fog of wolves and vampires? Wouldn't you want someone to come after you?
Chris: I'm sure the wolves are just wandering around blindly, and if she's not dead already, they won't be able to find her.
Against my better judgment, I let him have this one choice. I follow the others to the castle, and after another decision am promptly eaten by spiders. I blame his interference, and redo my choices where I now go back to find the companion. She is alive, and so (smugly) I continue onward.
After a while I began to see a pattern in my own choices. I pick whatever option seems the most urgent. Not the wisest, not the most likely to succeed, just what is the most pressing. Kill the vampires or try to save the aunt before something happens to her? Save the aunt! Follow the creepy hermit that's running away, or rejoin my friends? Creepy hermit!
And doing it this way ends in death. A lot.
Neither Chris nor I were able to play through to an actual, bonafide, satisfactory ending without doing a lot of backtracking. So either we both lack the decision making ability to successfully be a hero, or luck has a lot more to do with it than I'd previously thought. I had planned to make this whole thing into an analogy about writing, but now I've completely forgotten what my point was.
I guess I should go write something productive now.