What is a gamebook?

I’ve found designing a gamebook to be an odd experience. The moment I started pulling together the first draft of The Altimer I realised I had made assumptions about what a gamebook is – and it turns out there is no clear definition.

  • Part of me wants a gamebook to be a simulated experience; as a reader I want to feel like I’m exploring a real world which presents realistic (or at least internally consistent) consequences for my actions, preferably as complex and far-reaching as reality offers.
  • A different part of me sees a gamebook as more of a narrative puzzle; mapping out the journey and re-reading it with the “right” choices allows me to solve it.
  • Yet another part likes the idea that a gamebook is a collaborative story; each reading of it presents the same scenario and yet the storyline changes based on the choices I make.

Of course, all can be true simultaneously – I wouldn’t actually go so far as to say that they should be all true, because there are fantastic examples that fit into only one of the above categories. I feel that as a reader I’m most compelled by the idea of a collaborative story, although I find it much easier writing a narrative puzzle…watch this space for how the sequel turns out!

Which is your preferred approach?