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Choose Your Own Adventure

Frindle's picture

Before reading the excerpt from Flanagan’s book, I used to think of my adventures into Philadelphia as an unrestricted adventure. I could go wherever I wanted, do whatever I wanted. After reading her book, however, I’ve begun to think of my adventures as more limited. Flanagan quotes Costikyan in her book discussing the differences between stories and games. “Stories,” writes Costikyan “are inherently liner. However much characters may agonize over the decisions they make, they make them the same way every time we reread the story, and the outcome is always the same…Games are inherently non-linear. They depend on decision-making, [with] real, plausible alternatives. It must be entirely reasonable for a player to make a decision one way in one game, and a different way in the next.”

But what about the Choose Your Own Adventure books? The series of books that allow one to assume the position of the main character, and choose one of several “real, plausible outcomes” multiple times throughout the book. The Choose Your Own Adventure books are in this way both stories and games. On one hand, it is a story in that there are not an unlimited number of ways for the story to end, no matter how many times one redoes the story or chooses a different path. On the other hand, it is a game in that the path that one’s character takes can be different each time, and the outcome does not not need to be the same.

This has caused me to reevaluate my own play in the city. It is not as unrestricted as I originally thought. There were limitations, restrictions: I could go wherever I wanted…provided I had enough money, was old enough, felt safe enough, and did the one thing required of me each week. Because of this, I believe that my play in the city is more a Choose Your Own Adventure than a game. It is by no means a story, as my paths through the city and the outcomes have varied dramatically in only two trips. However, it is not entirely a game because it has limitations. We are in the city for a specific purpose, and it is only after we do whatever we were supposed to do that we can play aimlessly, if we so choose.

For example, when I went to Philly last week, I went with a goal in mind: to visit the Magic Gardens. This part of the trip, at least, was not a game, was not play. I visited the Gardens and was awed by them –– I couldn’t believe that someone had created all the mosaics using mostly other people’s trash. But I still went because I was told to do so, because it was part of an assignment. But after I went to the magic gardens, when we wandered along the streets and ate at Ishkabibble’s, or looked at random family photographs in the used bookstore, or marched through an Octoberfest in September –– that was play. We weren’t doing it for any specific purpose, and that is what made it into a game for us.

At what point do we move from work to play? Is it play if we enjoy it, even if we are made to do it? Is Flanagan’s idea of critical play even possible? That is, is it still play if it has a specific purpose? Is it play only for those who don’t know it is a critique of society? If we follow  the rules that Flanagan has laid out in her book, we know that a game has a quantifiable goal. Should critical play instead be called critical games, as games have a specific goal in mind, while play does not?


Everglade's picture

You are rethinking your trip

You are rethinking your trip to philly, with the notion in mind about the comparision between a story and a game. And then you discuss the Choose Your Own Adventure books which are hard to fit in the category of a story or a game, because you think it's both. When you apply this thinking to your experience- you discover that there were restrictions and the aim to visit the Magic Garden so that it's not completely play, but you enjoyed the Magic Garden and after it you wandered aimlessly so that part can count as play. That became hard to define so you end your essay with questions. In class discussion I said it would be better if you try to answers some of the questions.

Anne Dalke's picture

Goals or goal-less-ness?

You're missing your second reader here--I wonder what happened to her?

You begin (as do many of your classmates) with "I used to think...but now, however..."--this gives a great sense of your thinking in motion!

I also see a nice engagement (="play") with Flanagan's ideas and your experience in the city, mediated by a third text, the CYOA series.

I'd like to see you work a little more with (or maybe push back a little more on) Flanagan. Is she entirely consistent (for example) regarding the goal-lessness of play, vs. the goal-orientation of critical play?

How do you structure your argument?

And what is its next step? Where can you go from here?

Student 24's picture

The structure of this paper

The structure of this paper revolves around Kate's evaluation of her trips to Philly in relation to the idea presented in Flanagan's work about a story being inherently linear, versus the decision-making involved in playing a game. Through a comparison with a personal example of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and her visits to Philadelphia, Kate explores the idea of having limitations even within the liberty of making her own decisions.

The relationship between the ideas in Flanagan's work and Kate's example regarding the trip to Philadelphia is built in criticism, moving into the question of whether or not critical play is even possible. Should it perhaps be a game, rather than play, given that there are goals, purposes, and limitations involved in the structure of critical play itself, as do games?

The paper was, I felt, effectively organised, by taking the reader through the process of evaluation, re-evaluation, and questioning which Kate did of Flanagan's ideas through applying them to her experiences, which are related to the act of play.

Personally, I hadn't thought of that conflict in ideas/language, regarding "play" vs. "games", and how one connotes personal freedom, and the other, restrictions and concrete decisions given a set of choices. The paper could have been more clear about this conflict, rather than leaving its direct address 'til the end, however it is still clear to follow and understand that this is one of the main themes in the paper.