Coopdevil is the author of the eclectic Fighting Fantasist blog (amongst many others). Despite the name, the blog is not just limited to Fighting Fantasy, but it also branches out into role playing games, gamebook theory, tabletop games and gaming nostalgia and other gamebooks. Coop’s blogs need to be checked out for their great level of knowledge and entertainment. Of course, as soon as you have read the interview with him about gamebooks and blogginf here:
What was the first gamebook you read (that wasn’t your own)?
Citadel of Chaos, the second of the Fighting Fantasy books although I have a vague childhood memory of being earlier being utterly baffled by a Choose Your Own Adventure book brought back from the local library for me but they aren’t games are they? Hence not a gamebook (it has to have game-y style mechanics for it to be a game in my eyes). This business of starting with the second of a series seemed to continue into Lone Wolf where I started with Fire on the Water not Flight From the Dark. Something about the number ‘2’ must have been attractive to the juvenile Coop.
What is your favourite gamebook?
Without any doubt Creature of Havoc. I always prefered Jackson’s FF work to Livingstone’s – he pushed the boundaries of what could be done with the gamebook format whereas Livingstone seemed content to keep churning out weak stuff like Crypt of the Sorcerer all day long. Along with Sorcery! it’s the peak of Jackson’s “clever gamebooks” with as many different mechanical tricks thrown in as possible and I love the atmosphere as well. Subverting the usual FF prologue “you are a wandering adventurer-for-hire” with that potted travel guide to the region and then just throwing you at paragraph 1 with no idea how that related to your situation (but having lots of neat hints and clues) was just genius.
What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the genre?
Go to Project Aon website, download Lone Wolf. For the quintessential FF experience get Deathtrap Dungeon and cheat like buggery.
Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?
It wouldn’t say they were “great compared” to games and “linear” fiction they were just great in their own way. A mix of “different each time” adventure stories, puzzlebook and an accessible way of playing D&D. When I first encountered Citadel of Chaos I knew lots of people who were playing D&D but they were impossibly grown-up, some of them were as old as 16(!) and getting into such a group was totally impossible for a kid who was about 7 years younger. Probably encouraged boys who were less bookish than me to read as well – the 1980s generation’s Harry Potter I guess. Also took, at least the British ones anyway, a certain delight in grisly deaths and boxum sorceresses to give them an attractive anti-establishment “Great-Aunt wouldn’t approve” appeal. (That said, my favourite Great-Aunt bought me issue 2 of PROTEUS – that start with number two thing again)
Why did you start your blogs?
Discovered the OSR and found that I wasn’t the only one who liked that early 80s vibe in his gaming yet had felt progressively left behind as the RPG scene started to sneer at D&D and that sort of British gamebook fantasy that had been popular when I was getting into RPGs.
What has happened because of your blogs?
A DCMA takedown demand. Ignored because I refuse to see how one Briton can attack another Briton via a US court and for the more simple reason that the demand was based upon completely and utterly wrong information.
Has anything surprising happened because of your blogs?
The most surprising thing is that other people read them.
What is the most important thing when writing a blog?
Have something to say and avoid self-censorship, not of the “cut out the potty mouth young man” type but of the “would post about this but regular crew won’t be interested” type. Probably why my own blog is such a mess of random and never completed stuff.
Do you have any other sites besides your blogs?
Not these days.
What do you think the future of gamebooks is?
I’ve been trying to find a quote I read only the other day in IMAGINE (TSR UK’s magazine that ran from 1983 to 1985) about how one day we’d all be reading gamebooks on our pocket computers which probably looked like a pipedream until the advent of the smartphone. I’ve tried Warlock of the Firetop Mountain on the iPhone but the whole glacially slow dice-rolling animation business annoys me immensely (roll a 5 and a 2 and watch as the game takes great pains in slowly explaining, like a nursery school teacher, that 5 – pause – plus – pause – 2 – pause – equals – pause, wait for it – 7!) so I’ve hardly played either. So I guess it’s Kindle and the various smartphone OSs in future. What I would love to see, and would probably herald the next big explosion of the form, would be something like Inform (the script based language for creating Infocom Z-code text adventures) but for paragraph-based adventures on mobile platforms. Self-publishing would go mad then.