Demo Opinions: How to Describe Text Game Genre and Format

Hey all - I posted a demo of my in-development text game The Salt Keep a while back. It’s not ChoiceScript, but I thought it would fit in here as it’s pretty similar in structure/format. One thing I’ve struggled with a bit during development is exactly how to talk about that format.

I usually describe the game as a text RPG (it has levels and stats, and items to equip, and stuff like that) but I wonder if that really gets the idea across at all. I also sometimes say text adventure, but I feel like that usually implies more traditional parser-type games without RPG elements. In some ways interactive fiction feels right, and some people have described it as CYOA even though I never particularly thought of it that way, so I’m curious what others think.

On the same note, how would you describe most ChoiceScript games to people who aren’t already familiar with them? I imagine almost all of those descriptors could work for a lot of them, but I wonder which actually communicates the content and feel of the games the best.

“You know those Choose Your Own Adventure novels? It’s like those, but the book remembers what choices you’ve made.”


What @will said. That’s almost exactly how I’ve explained it to people, although I was a little less concise. And it does seem to work, for purposes of the conversations I’ve had, anyway.

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Hmm, maybe I need to embrace the CYOA label more. I haven’t thought of it that way as I’ve been working on it, but I guess it’s less important how I think of it than what communicates it to other people.

Depends on the demographic group I am speaking to.

For a set of readers/testers that are neither gamers nor IF readers, this is how I described my project:

“An interactive text-based adventure game with choices, much like a visual novel or the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 1990’s.”

When talking to graphic-based gamers, I often tie in Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Skyrim and Fallout in describing the choice based systems to them.

When talking to readers of fiction, sci-fi, fantasy and comics, I explain it as updated CYOA, or Interactive Fiction done digitally instead of on paper. Also mention the mobile IF games which is more popular now then before.


This seems like a good way of putting it - maybe I’m too preoccupied with figuring out a single category that captures it, rather than some clean comparisons like that.

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I have always felt games of all nature are cross-genre, and therefore never focused on classification systems.

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Where I am, CYOA is not a good reference. No one knows what those are and those who do know it by different names. “Text adventure” by itself is okay but in the context of interactive fiction evokes the idea of parser games, which can be misleading.

Usually I just use “interactive fiction” or “gamebook”. If I have to elaborate more I say “it’s a book where you make choices and the story adapts to it”. But most people get it right away.


Fortunately, just about everyone I’ve tried to explain to has been familiar with the concept, but what’s surprised me is that they’re distantly familiar, as in they’ve heard of the concept and maybe read one or two of the books twenty or thirty years ago. I honestly thought they were a cultural staple. I actually tried to write one when I was about eight. I went through a phase around my tenth birthday when they were all I wanted to read during the silent-reading period at school. I actually remember my mother teaching me the terms “first person” and “third person” as they applied to narratorial perspective, and of course I wondered if there was also a “second person,” and she said that would be a book where the main character was “you,” and I said “Oh, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book,” and it all made perfect sense. And I wouldn’t even have considered myself a hardcore fan. It’s sort of surreal, as if I’d discovered that most Americans thought of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as some kind of exotic cuisine.


I think that’s exactly what’s made me hesitate to identify with “Choose Your Own Adventure” much: I assumed most people would be familiar with it conceptually, but I worried it would be in a kind of narrow way where it immediately makes them think, “oh, so it’s like a kid’s book that I liked when I was 8,” which obviously is not really the main association I’d like to create.

It probably does convey the basic mechanics pretty well (how you actually move around and make decisions within the narrative), but I think I’ve been a little hung up on what assumptions it would lead people to make about the narrative itself.

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Yes, that’s why I use the concept as a starting point, but immediately make sure to clarify that I’m talking about something much longer, deeper, and more complex.


Me too – and when I’d narrate stories to friends and invite them to say what their character does next, we’d always call them Choose Your Own Adventure stories. My own kids do the same with each other but call it “D&D without dice.”


So how far did you get with it?

Only the first few choices, I’m afraid. Then I got sucked back into my attempts at a more traditional fantasy novel…

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