Monday, February 07, 2005

Game Books

I've just been "playing" Steve Jackson's Starship Traveller or as much as you can play these things without dice to hand. I'll come back to these books later this summer because I think (although it's a gut instinct not a rational thing) that these books are much more important to science fiction than we have realised.

Just playing this book through once I was struck by how almost all encounters turned away from people and towards objects, and this is even with a set of decisions which always chose people rather than place (I suspect boys at the time played it differently).

It's as if, stripped of the camoflage of true story, this book has slid along the spectrum to the very extreme of sf-non-involvement with the human.

Must muse some more.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as a guess, the tendency to move towards objects rather than people likely has more to do with the complications of dealing with NPC decision branches added onto the PC's decision branches, rather than any deliberate attempt to isolate the character from all human interaction.

For a counterpoint, you might try and find the "Freeway Warrior" game books by Joe Dever (author of the "Lone Wolf" series). It's perfectly awful post-apocalypse drivel, but the main character's goals do primarily revolve around helping his family and an extended group of survivors cross a hostile environment, rather than him adventuring off on his own for no particular reason.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Farah said...

This is very helpful. Like you I tend to prefer Occam's razor type explanations. The difficulty here is that this genre was so much written for boys and with a specific idea of what boys wanted, that we don't have much in the way of an equivalent to compare it to. I wonder what a teen romance game book would look like? Did anyone ever write one?

I've added your recommendations to my list.

5:28 AM  
Blogger sir-talen said...

Ah, you probably want to look out for "HeartQuest", published by TSR in 1983 http://www.gamebooks.org/hqlist.htm

I've never read them so I can't really comment on their quality, unfortunately. Just don't be confused by the "HeartQuest" RPG published by Seraphim Guard, which covers tabletop roleplaying in the style of Shouju ("girls") manga.

10:45 AM  
Blogger sir-talen said...

Ah, one more on the human interaction front! "Convoy" a solitare game using Steve Jackson Games' "Car Wars" tactical combat system. The plot revolves around a small group (there's no central character), escorting a tanker truck carrying a precious supply of algae for a food processing plant (civilization having gone belly up after the "Grain Blight" devastated world food supplies).

Despite the game's origins, there are quite a few decision points that depend on figuring out what an NPC wants, or is willing to do or not do. In fact, aside from the final battle, it's possible to go through the whole adventure without engaging in combat.

10:51 AM  
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