Do you like text-based choice games for the reading or the playing?

I think I may be in a minority here about why I like text-based choice games. For me, I just really like the choices and playing the game. I love having lots of options, especially character customization. The text-based part is really only because text allows me to refer back to the narration at any time, whereas audio does not.

For most people, though, I get the impression the text part is first and foremost what draws them in. They actually want to read, and having interactivity is just a bonus. I’m… very much not like that. I actually do not like reading, and books are simply not interesting to me at all. So… for me the purpose of the narration is exclusively to enable the player to know what is happening, and nothing more. I see games with paragraphs upon paragraphs of flowery text, often something that’s not even happening anywhere near the MC and doesn’t help the player to play the game. I feel like the general audience for text-based games appreciates that, and I just really do not.

17 Likes

I am generally not that much into reading either. The fact that I am actually making choices for my character is what draws me in. However, I do like (and excuse my French), a kick ass main character. That being said, I don’t like my game to be disrupted or interrupted during my first playthrough. That’s not to say that I won’t challenge myself ever, it’s just that I wish to explore freely and achieve whatever I want freely for the first time, before starting to experiment.

5 Likes

As someone who is legally blind, most types of games are off the table right away, so text Based games are the games I play the most by default

18 Likes

I appreciate a good story to pull me in, in both regular ol’ video games and text-based games. Sure, I can sit down and pop open, oh, Angry Birds or something if I just want to kill my brain for a few hours and relax, but most of the time, if I can’t get into the plot, the game had better be extremely fun mechanically, or else I’m going to stop caring very quickly. Hell, even the recent Doom game, for being primarily a demonic shoot-em-up, had something resembling a plot for me to care about.

This means that I really can’t play text games that are all choice and no plot. It just bores me to tears, to be frank.

13 Likes

Well, I’d say plot is pretty important for deciding what choices to make. What isn’t important to me is, for example, several pages of metaphors and similes that are almost entirely devoid of actual meaning but just sound deep and don’t pertain to any choices. Yes, I have seen this in Choicescript games.

9 Likes

Oh yeah, I get that. Way back in a different thread about “things you won’t do in your writing,” I brought up how utterly pointless it is to force the player to read page on page on page of details that are great for worldbuilding, but only tangentially even matter to the MC’s endeavors.

Just put it in an index tab if you really need to put it in your story, honestly.

11 Likes

There are also cases in which it really does affect your MC’s choices, but also, your MC isn’t there and would have zero knowledge of it. This, to me, is actually worse because the author is probably expecting me to have read it and I’d miss relevant details that won’t be repeated when the MC finds out later.

4 Likes

Hmmm, I’m also not much of a reader, generally speaking, and I usually enjoy writing much more. What draws me in with regards to cyoa is the interactivity, basically a mix of both: a good plot and plenty of options to be part of said plot and shape it.
What I do not care much about however, are the more gamelike aspects of IF. I rarely ever check the stats, skills or even my inventory; I just play in character and if something works as I had hoped, good, if not I’m most of the time not going out of my way to make it work, because this only puts a dent in my immersion and the character I want to play. I’d rather fail and get a maybe not satisfying but still interesting result of having failed than breaking character to max some stats.
So, to answer the original question, I like them both for reading and playing as in “making choices” but not so much playing as in “paying much attention to stats and skills”.

Info dumping is just bad writing to me; even as someone who greatly enjoys the reading aspect of IF and doesn’t mind going a few pages without choices, this isn’t something I’d ever enjoy.

11 Likes

I’d said that for me it’s a story first, game second. But by ‘story’ I mean interesting plot, not a flowery text with metaphors etc. Рartially it’s because English is not my native language; I have difficulties with deciding which style is good or bad. I can enjoy text without any impact on storyline but for that I need to be already interested in plot and MC.
As for game-part, I need choices and consequences of course, that’s why I play CYOA. But I don’t care at all about mechanics like skill-managment, stats and all that. If I want something like that, I go and play videogames. And with CYOA I just want to read interesting story which I can change.

12 Likes

In contrast to you, @geldar, I read interactive fiction because I love books, and I love to read endless pages of beautiful prose, if only for the sake of occupying my thoughts. However, in interactive fiction, I completely agree that it is easy to accidentally waste this prose. The number one most crucial thing for a WiP to master is getting an intro to be just the right speed. Too much context, and the player quits because they can’t bear to read passively for so long. Too little context, and the player has no idea why they’re suddenly picking a suitor, or fighting a battle, or running from the law.

Many CoG games with fantastic reviews seem to be fantastically responsive stories that are thick in plot, immersive in narrative, and still manage to make their player feel powerful. To create a totally fictive world, to create entirely new rules by which Nature itself seems to abide, and to make it believable, while simultaneously making it flexible, endearing, immersive, making the MC feel both an empowered hero and totally normal… all this is so difficult to balance, and made even harder as you try to keep it succinct and engaging.

I suggest that the best writing for this medium comes from consistently honing and rereading one’s own work. Without being hyper-aware of a player’s perspective at all times, we end up with one of the two aforementioned extremes, and estrange all sorts of players, whether enthusiastic readers or not. My guess is that better summary-writing, and more awareness of how a player sees the game screen - for example, making some features, like reading long lore, or even something like sexuality-locking, optionally accessible through the menu - would win a lot more hearts than forcing players to read and readers to play. The only thing a player should have to see is lore-wise is essentials, unless they opt in to more (worldbuilding doesn’t hurt in good measure, though).

15 Likes

For me, it’s very much both.

I am a reader, always have been. Even before I could actually read, I loved being read to and I loved books. I love stories but I’m also passionately in love with language itself. The flowery stuff you hate makes my soul sing.

But if I just wanted to read some text, I’d read some text. I own literally hundreds of books already, probably over a thousand. All physical copies, because I don’t do ebooks. I like the heft of a book, the texture of the pages, the smell (yeah, I’m one of those). I’ve been a collector of autographed books for nearly three decades.

And yet here I am, coming back again and again for over a decade now to these books that can only exist on the screen, that will never be autographed. Obviously interactivity isn’t just a “bonus” for me. The game matters. And there are many different ways that the game can matter - self-insertion, crossing Achievements off the checklist, focusing on stats, even indulging curiosity about the mechanics of the game itself. I’ve dabbled in most of them, but I think the one that keeps me coming back is the sense that the author and I are partners in the work of storytelling. (When I look back at the games I’ve enjoyed most over my lifetime, from Reader Rabbit’s mad libs when I was four to the sandbox world of The Sims, that’s actually been something of a constant theme.)

Honestly, I think the joy for me is in the synthesis - not just the way any individual gamebook is both a book and a game, but in a meta sense, the feeling that I’m present to witness the birth of something, a truly new way of telling stories that simply wasn’t possible before - a truly new kind of story, even. I’ve seen how far things have come in the past decade, and I see glimmers of what lies ahead, surfaces that have barely been skimmed, and it’s just unbelievably exciting.

That said, it’s okay for a work of art not to be all things to all people. It used to be that moving pictures were such a novelty and a wonder that people would pack into theaters to see anything at all. Now it’s possible for two people to say they love movies and mean it sincerely, and one of them is talking about superhero blockbusters, and the other is talking about foreign arthouse cinema with subtitles. Neither of these people is a “bad” cinephile, they just have different tastes. (For what it’s worth, I’ve often felt like a bit of an outlier among IF fans because I want more worldbuilding, introspection, and generally literary stuff. I feel as if most people are more into action and romance and stat-based play.)

12 Likes

Word.

2 Likes

I originally stumbled upon choice games when my old gaming laptop died and I replaced it with a Zenbook that had a crap video card. I needed something to play when I didn’t feel like getting on my desktop. Enter CoG…

When I play a game, I see it as RP game. Doesn’t matter if it’s something like Dragon Age, where I can customize my character or Assassin’s Creed, where it’s a preset character. To me, it’s role-playing, and as long as I can relate to the character, I can get into it (sometimes I may need to add my own head canon side stories, as I did with Fallout: New Vegas, but the foundation is the same). Taking that same method into CoG games proved interesting…

I found that, with choice games, I like them for a combination of reading and playing, but lean more toward the playing. That said, I hate stat raisers in text games. It’s boring, forces me to create a MC that is one-dimensional in order for them not to get killed or get a crappy ending, and usually lacks in story–and in enjoyable NPCs–as a result. The first CoG I played was a stat raiser, and I hated it. Part of the problem is that you never know what choice the author will relate to what skill/trait, so your MC goes with what they know and finds out they did something they didn’t mean to do, simply because of “wording.”

I almost gave up on text-based games right then and there, because I was that annoyed. I don’t have a great deal of free time and don’t like wasting what I do have on “entertainment” I have to spend hours replaying because my MC made one wrong choice (this is one reason I really wish CoG would implement a save system at the end of each chapter, because I have several unfinished games due to this and wish I could get my money back). But I did try a couple of more and found a couple of gems. Why do I play them?

An MC that isn’t so blank that it feels like I’m playing a cardboard cutout, but leaves enough for me to tweak so that whatever MC I create for the game still has decent control over their actions. NPCs that are complex, relatable, and feel like real people instead of cartoon tropes. A plot that, while being shaped by the MC’s stats and choices, doesn’t feel like a rigid stat testing mess where your MC dies or fails everything because they aren’t one-dimensional cartoon heroes. A world that’s rich and different enough to transport me to its surroundings, but not so bloated that I feel lost reading the story. I want to play the game, but I want it to feel like a book that my MC is guiding, if that makes any sense.

One thing I will say–I really wish a game would let you set up your MC’s personality at the beginning of the game and use that to flavor text while still allowing the big choices/dialogues to be choices. The thing is, for those of us who RP, we know who our character is, so let us tell the author. We don’t need choices to shape personality–fact is, serious people can be sarcastic, stoic people can be friendly, and grumpy people can be soft. Just because their default setting, so to speak, is one way, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing they know. Being able to do this at the start would make RPing some of these games a lot more fun.

15 Likes

Very interesting that you think you may be in the minority, because I thought it would be the majority opinion. We do say “play” instead of “read” here. I’m very much here for the choices rather than the text - unless I’m doing a beta, I skip over a lot of the text.

I also feel like you don’t get the whole story from one playthrough, whereas if I’m going to read something properly I want the whole story, so I will read books carefully but not necessarily choice games.

3 Likes

If I knew what text to skip and what to read just by skimming I’d absolutely do that. But it’s hard to tell where the important information is hiding.

1 Like

I like them for a third reason: I can just buy the entire story and enjoy it instead of dealing with bs mobile monetization

5 Likes

I can say that if I wanted to read more than to play, I would read a novel.

The reason I play IF games is because I enjoy the interactive part of it, a lot of the games here and other sites that I love to be would be big ass noes if they were an actual book instead of an IF.

Mind you, I do love reading, but to me IF and books are completely different experiences, the fact that their medium is that of text doesn’t make them even similar to me, the same way that some people love watching movies but can never get into shows.

Now, with that said, I feel like contrary to what you seem to think, most people that plays these sort of games are here to play, not just read.

8 Likes

It seems like a lot of people include kinetic novels in the same category as choice-based games. Perhaps not here on CoG though, since almost every Choicescript game does actually have choices that do something.

3 Likes

I think one can do absolutely incredible stylistic things with an interactive novel that aren’t possible with traditional books, but in my opinion, a good story game where I can feel like the main character within the game’s boundaries are much better than powerplaying big MCs or totally hijacking the story to suit one’s needs.

I love to see the unique world within someone else’s imagination come to life in my own mind. If I wanted to play strategy, or warfare, or whatever other sort of games, I would go and play something with graphics where the imagination bit is done for me. I can never see interactive novels as predominantly games - they are novels that act like them. That’s all.

9 Likes

Omg not me, I feel so incredible cheated whenever I play a visual novel and there’s like, one choice every 2 hours. I would definitely not enjoy a kinetic novel AT ALL lmao.

11 Likes