Less game, more book: gamebooks without combat

About three months ago we got to see a fascinating conversation unfold on Twitter, started by Matt Hill of gamebooksunlimited.com: can you write gamebooks without combat? What would we even call that?


I’ve been dipping my feet in the gamebook genre ever since I started working with Chris, but it wasn’t until one of our gamebook events that Chris challenged me to dive in head-first and try something other than Fighting Fantasy. I started reading Dave Morris’s Heart of Ice… and was immediately sold.

Within about half an hour I managed to explore some underground train tracks (which were nothing like the NYC subways..), get run over by a plane (yes, that’s right.), and become a half-android (“we can rebuild her! We have the technology!”)… without fighting a single fight.

So how essential are fights to gamebooks? The expectation is in the name – game books suggest you will do some sort of playing. I could never get into Choose Your Own Adventure books the way I can get into a gamebook. But I admit to having skipped a few fights to just get on with the story. Heart of Ice made it clearer for me what I expect from a gamebook: the knowledge that my past actions influenced my current situation.

Gamebooks appeal to my RPG-loving side. Most other interactive books focus on playing out different paths. Gamebooks are more about the journey you take. If I choose to help a man trapped by a killer plant in the forest and as a thank you he steals from me (I swear that keeps happening), I reach my next destination 30 gold poorer. The actions I take feel more valid, like they have more of an effect.

Of course I also love collecting things, whether it’s equipment, gold, keywords, or status points. The fact that I can sometimes collect all of the above make gamebooks the perfect kind of interactive fiction for me.

How do you feel about combat in gamebooks?

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Yuliya handles marketing and writing at QuestForge, and is the self-appointed chief of keeping Chris sane (despite Chris's insistence that he is the sane one).