Virtual vs. Digital

Like some others said in class last week, when I opened my CYOA story, I only had one goal: to win. In terms of my book, that meant continuing the story for as long as possible, where I expected to find the best endings. I accidentally(or maybe not) flipped to the last page of “Space and Beyond”, and found an ending that I deemed would be the “most” satisfying.

As I went through the book, I frequently ran out of fingers to hold my place, and instead had to resort to various items from my backpack in order to be able to track back as far as I wanted. It was most frustrating when both choices ended the story, and I had to go back multiple choices in order to further my progress. In addition, many of the endings did not satisfy me. Even though I do understand that there can’t be a huge amount of detail because of size constraints, While I did want to “win” the book by getting to the last page, I was certainly not a completionist. When I did finally reach the “best” ending on page 131, I almost felt as if there was nothing left for me to accomplish. Unfortunately, that meant I never got to be a Space Pirate, or a member of the Space Circus. Oh well.

This week, as I first opened the electronic version of “Secrets of the Ninja”, I realized this process would be much different. Instead of putting my fingers in the pages there was an “undo button”, as well as an interactive road map which displayed the page numbers one would have to take in order to reach each ending. These features were very interesting to me. While the author of these books has no say in whether or not readers “cheat” by putting their fingers in the pages, I would assume that Montgomery had some power in determining how the books would be presented on a digital interface. Thus, while I earlier assumed that I wasn’t using the books as the author intended, now I’m not so sure. Why would there be an undo button and a road map with the page numbers on the digital versions if these books weren’t meant to be manipulated?

Now I realize what I should have before, the CYOA books give you control over the entire reading experience. Not only do you have power over the narrative, you also have control over what form it takes. Is it a game? A series of short stories? A world to be explored from different angles? It’s up to you. I believe that’s a part of the reason why these books were so popular: for once, children have control.

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