Choose Your Own Adventure books, also known as CYOA books were a very popular book series back in the 80s. Till today, these books are a cause for nostalgia among many Gen Xers. The formatting of the books, when they had just been published, was unlike any other books and they quickly became popular among young kids at the time.
What age are ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books for? Originally the books were geared towards ages 8 to 12 years. As the popularity of these books grew, the books started being published for readers aged 5 to 8 as well as young adults and adults.
These books became so popular that there were other series being published by competitors who wanted to get in on the new format of storybooks.
The Beginning of CYOA Books
For those that don’t know, Choose Your Own Adventure books are stories where you get to pick your adventure. The story is written with multiple scenarios and you, as the reader, are given options at certain points in the story to decide which path you would choose. The story continues that way until ultimately you pick your ending.
The idea behind the book was conceptualized by the author, Edward Packard, who used to tell bedtime stories to his daughters. One day he ran out ideas and asked the girls to choose what they would do instead. And from that incident, the idea of CYOA books started.
Obviously, life is no fairytale and there is always struggle before fame, for the most part. Packard was rejected by many publishers until finally, he caught his break and the rest, as they say, is history.
At first, he only published one book that sold 8,000 copies. Thereafter, his publisher, R. A. Mongomery, took the idea to a larger publishing house, Bantam Books, who chose to work with them to publish more titles.
Once the books started selling at a larger scale, a new genre was created called Gamebooks because such writing format had never been used before.
As the popularity of these books rose, so did competition. Other publishing houses started creating their own series so that they could benefit from this new book craze.
CYOA The Brand
Choose Your Own Adventure is a copyrighted brand name of a book series.
These books were first created by the Bantam Books publishers and later by Chooseco LLC. The later is a publishing house formed by the series founder, R. A. Montgomery to republish some of their bestselling books in 2003.
They also created a brand-new series that was geared towards their younger readers ages 5 to 8 years under the Dragonlarks imprint. And finally, they published an experimental long-form series for older kids aged 12+.
CYOA as a Genre
When anyone is talking about these types of books, they’ll always refer to them as CYOA books instead of gamebook or whatever the original title of the book is, and there are many; Example: Which Way books, Pick A Path books, Give Yourself Goosebumps, What if books, and etc.
So, even though CYOA is a copyrighted title. I feel like somehow it has become a synonym to the gamebook genre or more like a subgenre where these types of books or video games are referred to as CYOA-type books and games.
Are Choose Your Own Adventure Books Still Popular?
Yes, I believe these books are popular still. Not only among the Gen Xers, who want to reminisce about the old days, but it’s also becoming more popular with the new generations.
And why not, a lot of parents that grew up with these stories are introducing them to their kids who are also falling in love with the idea of these books.
The alluring part of these books was always being able to choose your path which speaks to a lot of kids. Being able to choose anything as a kid is a novel idea, and here you can go into the land of make-belief and pave a path that you want can be a mind-blowing experience to any kid.
So, if it worked then, I don’t see why it can’t work now. Particularly if you present them the e-book format. Since let’s face it a lot of kids today prefer their electronics over the regular paper books.
What Are the Differences Between Paper and E-Books?
As technology develops a new market for e-books developed. And anyone that wanted to stay relevant had to quickly adapt their book formats or risk losing potential customers. As such, CYOA books were no different. But is there a difference between these two styles of books?
The original CYOA books were published in the 70s until the late 90s. Then they were reprinted in the early 2000s. At this point, newer titles were also added to the collection.
To date, there are still CYOA books being published. Most recently, Penguin Workshops published CYOA-type books of which the third book was released in April 2019 and the fourth one in the Fall of 2019.
Hence, there still is a demand for print books in a particular genre.
Surprisingly enough, e-books are also doing really well in this genre. There isn’t much difference between the e-book and the print book. However, the thrill you get from looking for a particular page is gone.
With E-books, you can get to the next part with a click of a button.
The other thing that I see as a potential difference is that there aren’t as many stories for e-book readers as there are for print. But I am sure that will be changed soon.
Other Adaptations of This Genre
As with any successful genre, there are bound to be adaptations of work into other modes of entertainment. In this case, the most popular adaptation of this genre is in video games. Other adaptations are mobile apps and TV shows.
There are many CYOA games on the market today. These range from games geared for children to those geared for adult audiences.
The most popular one is The Walking Dead game, which has millions of people trying to play the game. This is geared more towards the Young Adult and Adult audiences rather than kids.
Another great way to play a CYOA game is through downloading the games on your phone. The games for this category range from dress up games, that are geared towards kids to CYOA games where you decide the fate of your cheating boyfriend (obviously for an Adult audience).
A couple of years ago, Netflix had come out with kids show that allowed the audience to make specific choices based on the options available to you on screen.
In recent years the Black Mirror series did this with an older aged audience for their “Bandersnatch” episode.
Some You Tubers, obsessed with the genre, came out with their own YouTube shows where you can pick your own adventure.
Initially, when YouTube still has the annotation feature available, they would you that feature to determine your choice But since that feature was taken out sometime in 2018 the new way to do it to make you hop from one video to another depending on your choice. It is rather interesting.
All in all, what started as a popular kids’ book. Quickly became popular among other entertainment mediums as well. Particularly with the rise of technology, the CYOA genre is more accessible to all ages in the form of video games. This genre is no longer reserved only for kids but it is now universal and for all to enjoy.