For a list of Gamebooks, see List of Gamebook Series

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.[1][2]


At the end of a paragraph, the reader is usually presented with a choice of narrative branches that they may follow, with each option containing a reference to the number of the paragraph that should be read next if the option is chosen. The reader may eventually reach a concluding paragraph which will bring the narrative to an end. In most gamebooks only one (or if more than this, a distinct minority) of the concluding paragraphs will end the narrative with a "successful" ending, with the others ending the narrative with a "failure" ending.[2]

Gamebooks are usually written in the second person with the reader assuming the role of a fictional character. The titles are usually published in series containing several books, although individual gamebooks have also been published. While the books in many series are stand-alone narratives, others continue the narrative from the previous books in the series.

There are three types of gamebooks. The first is the branching-plot novel (an example of this is the Choose Your Own Adventure series of gamebooks), which require the reader to make choices but are otherwise like a regular novel. The second type is the role-playing game solitaire adventure (an example of this is the Tunnels and Trolls series of gamebooks), which combines the branching-plot novel with the rules of a role-playing game, allowing the game to be played without a Gamemaster but requiring the purchase of separate manuals. The third type is the adventure gamebook (an example of this is the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks), which combines the branching-plot novel with simple role-playing rules included with each book.[1]


The gamebook format was speculated on before it actually existed. Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges' Examen de la obra de Herbert Quain, published in 1941, featured a fictional author, whose novel is a three-part story containing two branch points, thus having nine possible endings.[3][4] Borges' later work El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan describes a Chinese writer who goes into seclusion to write a book and construct a maze, the twist being that the end result is a combination of the two, but in one item - the fictional novel is a maze-like narrative which only makes sense if read in the correct manner, although this fictional book requires the reader to use deduction to determine the correct order of reading, rather than providing instructions like the modern gamebook.[5][4]

The TutorText series of interactive textbooks, published between 1958 and 1972, used a gamebook-style format to teach a wide variety of subjects to a mainstream audience.[6]

The experimental French literary group 'the Oulipo', active during the 1960's, also discussed the gamebook format, under the name "tree literature". Within the Oulipo the idea was proposed by François Le Lionnais and was first implemented by Raymond Queneau in his short story Un conte à votre façon. The Oulipo also applied the idea to theatre, with Paul Fournel and Jean-Pierre Énard implementing this in the form of The Theater Tree: A Combinatory Play.[7][8][9]

One of the earliest examples of the gamebook outside of literary experimentation was Lucky Les, published in 1967, a book which allowed the reader to determine the fate of a fictional cat by making choices and turning pages accordingly.[10][11] Another early example was Den mystiska påsen, a Swedish book, published in 1970, which involved a bag of stolen gems, although it has never been published in English.[12][13] The Tracker series of gamebooks, possibly the first gamebooks to be published as a series (rather than as stand-alone books), published from 1972-1980, featured adventures covering a range of genres and was heavily reliant on illustrations, with some choices appearing as numbered arrows within them.[14]

The first role-playing game solitaire adventures to be published were those using the Tunnels and Trolls system, beginning with the book Buffalo Castle in 1976, making Tunnels and Trolls the first roleplaying game to support solitaire play. A number of the adventures are still in print today.[15][16]

The short gamebook series The Adventures of You was published in 1976-77. The two books, Sugarcane Island and Journey Under the Sea were written by Edward Packard and R. A. Montgomery respectively. Both authors went on to create the Choose Your Own Adventure, beginning with The Cave of Time in 1979, which went on to become the longest running gamebook series with almost 200 titles, popularising the gamebook format in America. The two Adventures of You books were revised and integrated into the series.[17][18][19][20][21]

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was published in 1982, the first of what became the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, one of the first adventure gamebook series. With over 60 titles, including a variety of spin-offs, the series popularised the gamebook format in the UK.[22][23]

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