A gamebook is a book that allows the reader to participate in the story by making choices that affect the course of the narrative, which branches down various paths through the use of numbered paragraphs or pages.
A gamebook is also like a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) videogame on paper. Think World of Warcraft. Think Star Wars: the Old Republic. Think The Last of Us, Call of Duty, and even UFC 2.
At the end of a paragraph or page, you are usually presented with a choice of narrative branches that you can follow, with each option containing a reference to the number of the paragraph or page that should be read next if the option is chosen. You might eventually reach a concluding section, or in some books, even several sections, that will bring the story to an end.
There are three types of gamebooks:
- The Branching-Plot Novel
- The Choose Your Own Adventure series of gamebooks.
- The Keys is this type of gamebook.
- The reader makes choices but is otherwise like a regular novel.
- The Role-Playing Game Solitaire Adventure
- The Tunnels and Trolls series of gamebooks.
- Combines the Branching-Plot Novel with the rules of a role-playing game, allowing the game to be played without a Gamemaster.
- Requires the purchase of separate manuals.
- The Adventure Gamebook
- Siafu Saves the World! is this type of gamebook.
- Combines the Branching-Plot Novel with simple role-playing rules included with each book.
At their core, gamebooks are compelling adventure stories where YOU get to choose how the adventure unfolds.
I believe the solution to getting reluctant readers to read lies in gamebooks.
Back in the late 70s through the late 90s, children around the world – particularly boys, who are often reluctant readers – and Black boys, long considered the most reluctant readers – were reading, collecting, trading and discussing the Choose Your Own Adventure books.
Because with gamebooks, children are put in the driver’s seat. They are the mountain climber; they are the abominable snowman hunter; they are the time traveler, deep-sea explorer and the warrior that slays the dragon.
They make the choices, so they read.
Gamebooks are cited by numerous educators as uniquely effective tools for helping students learn to read. They are popular with, and appealing to, the reluctant reader due to their interactivity.
In the gamebooks authored by Balogun Ojetade, beginning with the Branching-Plot Novel (for ages 12 and older), The Keys, the reader can choose to be either Teresa “Terry” De Fuego, a nineteen year old self-proclaimed extreme journalist of Aztec descent, or Jordan Drummond, nineteen year old math genius and star basketball player of Igbo and Ateke descent.
Whichever of these two strong, independent and cool characters the reader chooses to be, they are encouraged throughout the book to be self-confident enough to forge ahead and complete the adventure, while applying common sense, prudence, and certain moral values in the decision-making process.
In The Keys and in Siafu Saves the World! – the Adventure Gamebook (for ages 8 and older) in which you are the superhero Siafu – courage is of great importance, for unless the hero forges ahead, there is no story.
However, courage and confidence should not rule out caution. The successful hero is prudent – thinking before acting and being patient enough to learn all that may be useful later, asking for expert help when he or she needs it, using common sense, and taking the advice of our elders, who are wiser than us.
So, finally, our youth – and we adults, too – can be the hero in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror stories and we can control how the story unfolds and even how it ends.