Courtesy kidstechnews

Those of you old enough to remember the early eighties will probably have read a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. These books taught kids about narrative, and also absorbed them for hours. Now, you can help your kids to write their own, using modern computer software.

Choose your own adventure books started in the late seventies and were huge in the eighties, but they’re still being printed now. They weren’t linear books. Instead, they were a series of text passages, each describing a certain situation and location.

At the end of the passage, you’d get to choose an option, which would prompt you to turn to a page. For example: “If you want to fight the orc, turn to page 21. If you want to make a run for it, turn to page 48”.

If your kid doesn’t know about these, then making a gift of one will get them hooked. One of my favourites was The City of Thieves, which was part of Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy series.

The rise of interactive fiction

Not long after these books emerged, people began to create computer versions, in the form of text-based adventure games. Forget the dazzling graphics of Halo, or the intuitive touch-and-swipe fun of Fruit Ninja. Nothing beats the thrill of typing

GO NORTH, GET LAMP, LIGHT LAMP, GO WEST, FIGHT GHOST

No, seriously, bear with me. It’s more exciting than it looks, honestly.

These games became known as interactive fiction, and one of the great things about them is that they remind you to use your imagination. There are no graphics telling you what things should look like in an interactive fiction game. You get the bare bones: text entry, and text output. You have to use your brain to turn that text into images. Interactive fiction is an exercise in imagination.

It’s also an exercise in memory, and logic. Players in text adventures have to figure out puzzles. They have to remember where certain items are, and collect and use them in the right order to overcome obstacles. In a way, it’s kind of like coding, but in storybook form.

Many people think that interactive fiction went away, but it’s still around – and it could be a great tool to spark your kids’ imagination. Thanks to several free tools now on the market, this kind of experience is now easy to create.

How would your kid like to write their own interactive fiction title? Introduce them to some of these interactive fiction tools to get them started.

Published in Young Nation magazine on January 7, 2017