From the Fiddling Reaver, a member of the Unofficial Fighting Fantasy Forum. The Fiddling Reaver will be releasing an amateur adventure which they will be releasing in many places including www.ffproject.com. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.
What was the first gamebook you read?
My first gamebook was Crypt of the Sorcerer. I saw it lying on my classmate’s desk and went “Whoa! Nice Cover!” Of course, now that my first infatuation with it has diminished, there’s no denying how cheesy and unfairly difficult it is, but i can’t help but still liking it. While many other FF villains have superpowers similar to those of Razaak, he is very convincing as a satanic master of the occult and as someone who is supported by the forces of hell. Being mindcontrolled by a mask and forced to sacrifice myself, or being doomed to walk through the same little corridor for the rest of time are as scary prospects now as they were back then.
What is your favorite gamebook?
That would probably be Siege of Sardath. It is my favorite because of the Dark Elven villains. Rather than being shown as individual groups of mooks, they are shown as having actual culture and personality.Their scheme of subduing a Storm Giant, while simultaneously infiltrating their enemies with shapeshifters to make them fight each other is much more sneaky than simply mustering enough blunt force to meet the enemy head on. It is well written with genuinely tense moments, requires you to think rather than being lucky with the dice and choosing of paths, and it is well illustrated.
What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the genre?
Probably Citadel of Chaos as it is, in my opinion, not so difficult that it would scare a newcomer away. The plot is straightforward and easy to get into, and it has enough imaginative and enjoyable encounters to keep you entertained.
Summarise what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or fewer.
It’s a book where the plot is split up in a number of paragraphs, and you decide the course of action by flipping through them.
Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?
Well, why are books still around, when we have got movies? Because books can do something that movies and games cannot. And it combines that with the ability to experiment, explore and being in the story that you are given in a video game.
A gamebook is not limited by programming in the way that video games have always been, allowing for a much greater variety in content and imagination.
What is your favourite forum/group/online community for gamebooks?
The unofficial forum at http://fightingfantasy.eamped.com, along with the facebook group for the Fighting Fantazine. I prefer those two because people are cozy, imaginative and respect the opinions of others.
What has the internet community brought to gamebooks.
Apart from the fact that the internet gives you the possibility to discuss gamebooks with like-minded people, i think the best is that it allows the readers to meet with the writers. This is really good for keeping the enthusiasm amongst fans alive, and it is a good way for writers to get feedback and constructive criticism for their work. I believe that the word-of-mouth advertising is important for this genre, as it is a rather niche interest at the time being, and publishers have been unwilling to invest in marketing.
What is the best thing that has happened due to being in a forum?
Just to finally have somebody to discuss my interest with. I’ve liked the idea of writing my own adventure for quite a while, but I didn’t feel it would be worth it, if nobody else was going to read it. And it is of course very interesting to actually get in touch with the writers.
What do you think the future of gamebooks is?
Phew. The genre seems to slowly be picking up again. A few new franchises are starting up (Destiny Quest, Tin Man Games), and some old ones are getting new titles added to them (Fighting Fantasy).
Mobile apps certainly do help as well, although I do see it as a problem that the publishers insist that the player uses simulated dice throws, as they consider it “cheating” to not do so. I have to ask “why?” It’s not a game of D&D. You’re not negatively affecting the experience of somebody else. A sizeable chunk of gamebook readers do not use dice because they do not feel that doing so adds anything to the experience for them. Also, readers will be unable to skip past those unfairly balanced encounters. The publishers may very well loose sales if they continiue with this policy. So yes, it is in everybody’s best interest that the players will be free to play their adventures the way they prefer.
However, a true comeback for the genre isn’t going to come on its’ own. The reason why fantasy gamebooks became so popular in the first place was because: 1) Fantasy was still new in the early 80’s, and pretty much anything made was exciting. 2) The very concept was new and interesting. 3) Video games were not yet able to present a living world with living characters and choices to be made to anything near the same degree. They are now. I think that if gamebooks are going to pick up a larger audience, somebody has to make a work of genius, something of great effort and imagination in both storytelling and gameplay, something that takes the possibilities of the gamebook medium to its’ full potential.