Joystick: Choosing your own adventures in games

Published 11:45 am Thursday, May 30, 2013

There were few things as cool as the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books when I was a kid. I could travel to faraway lands, learn aikido, summon the mysterious and powerful genie, fight the equally mysterious and powerful dragon, turn into a giant monster eggplant, and more with the turn of a page and the right book.

Video games have had their share of “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style games as well, from the text adventures and interactive movies from the ‘80s — think Don Bluth’s 1983 “Dragon’s Lair” laserdisc game — to incredible puzzle and drama-filled games today.

Games like “Heavy Rain” and “The Walking Dead” are updating and re-imagining the possibilities behind interactive fiction. In each, players are presented with a deep story and choices they must navigate to come to an ending, for good or bad. “Heavy Rain,” in particular, allows the player to shape the story’s outcome, to figure out whether the protagonists achieve their goals or if the antagonist literally gets away with murder.

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The “Phoenix Wright” and “Professor Layton” series are also doing well, selling enough copies to continuously warrant U.S. releases, and obscure, visual novel-like games such as “Lux Pain” have invaded handheld gaming for years.

Now games like “Beyond: Two Souls” stand to take interactive fiction to the next level. The latest game from Quantic Dream stars Ellen Page as a runaway with a supernatural secret and Willem Dafoe as a scientist and father figure to Page. Players will be able to discover the secrets behind Page’s character, as well as a hint of what happens after death in the game’s universe.

“Beyond: Two Souls” is garnering huge buzz, not only for its stars but for gaming in general. A 35-minute portion of the game was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, and the game is set for release this October.

With games like “Beyond: Two Souls” pushing the boundaries of gaming, cinema, and interactive experiences, it stands to reason more interactive fiction is on its way. People still love choosing their own adventures, after all, and that’s part of what makes gaming in general so appealing.