Writing a CoG/HG for a younger audience


I probably won’t be able to actually follow through on this because I think CCH is going to keep me busy for years, but I was talking with my 9-year-old daughter today about CoGs and I realized I wouldn’t let her read most of them because of romance options, language, adult themes/situations or violence depicted in most (not all) our gamebooks.

I think Star Captain is one of the cleanest ones, and it’s one of my personal favorites, but it’s written on a level way above a third-grader.

Anyway, I would love to see some releases that are targeted towards elementary school kids, maybe in the 8 to 10-year-old range, both in terms of storyline and general writing style/complexity level. I think there would be an audience for them, but then again that’s just a hunch.

These games can really encourage creativity and critical thinking skills, and the interactive nature of the games might encourage kids, including young boys (many of whom lose interest in reading in late-elementary school), to engage with a text in a way they don’t with conventional stories.

Has anyone else thought about this?


Elementary school, unless the kids are on a really advanced reading level, text length and size might be a problem. The CS UI options that management were talking about could help make the text more kid-friendly. Bigger letters, simpler words, more pictures… I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

I made a QBasic game about a rabbit when I was a kid, it was basically a child-friendly COG without the benefits of a coding language meant for it. Unfortunately it is long lost to the data ether. I seem to remember writing it in one long day, though, which without art might be a plausible time frame - games for younger kids would need to be much shorter.

If you’re aiming at more 6th grade-junior high, the standard COG format would work except for some of the content. I haven’t played Way Walkers University yet, but if the sex and violence aren’t too bad that sort of thing would be great for the Harry Potter-loving crowd.

I’m now thinking about whether it would be possible to censor a game for different audiences. Like, add a “child safe” toggle that blocks out swearing. I already have paths in my WIP for people who would rather avoid dating or sexual content. A dystopian story could be great for young teenagers, if some of the more adult elements were toned down here and there.


Well, I just brain-stormed with her again. (I swear she’s going to bed in a minute)

She thinks that slightly larger type, as you mentioned, would help. Also, shorter paragraphs and maybe an option for a pink background. Stats would be limited to perhaps 4 or so. Just enough so that they can see their choices affect things. Writing would just need to be simplified but not babyfied. She is an avid reader and tackles things like Judy Moody and Ivy and Bean with ease. We’re reading Harry Potter together now. Many of her friends do the same.

Not to generalize, but many young girls seem to love reading about kids solving mysteries, kids fighting/learning to live with their siblings, and kids having to solve problems like raise money for a good cause. All of these types of plots are tailor made for interactive fiction.

And yes I think someone really needs to experiment with a toggle option. I’ve considered the same thing - I even posted about it last summer in my thread. The problem is that I think Apple would still rate the game based on the most extreme content, so that might still scare parents off even if the “clean toggle” is advertised as a parent-friendly feature.


I read a review a few years back about a father who read Choice of the Dragon with their child. I’m having little luck digging up a link though to the review but it stuck with me.

Dare I say I think about it a lot, it’s an idea that’s been niggling at the back of my head for a while. I’ve not been able to write, mind you, and I’ve not had much to do with children since I was one myself. But I would love to see more child friendly games. Actually I’d love to try writing them.

I was definitely reading a lot of Choose Your Own Adventure style books when I was younger, (actually I preferred the Fighting Fantasy ones) of course lack of money was an issue so they were borrowed from the library.

Would shorter games, the length of Choice of the Dragon be best, do you think?


I started to read Dragon with my daughter back in 2013 and I realized, “Geez this is pretty violent,” and so we stopped mid-story.

Shorter length would help. I think a 20-30 minute playthrough length would be optimal, so I’m guessing 20k to 30k words max. Also, as @Sashira said, more art in the stories!

And kids love books in a series, so if someone created their own unique spunky girl (or boy) detective, they could use the character over and over.

Geez I so want to do this now.


What about animals? Talking animals. :mouse:

You know, I don’t actually like too much violence in games? I prefer problems solved through other methods. Being able to talk your way out of a situation, or think your way out. Where the bad guy can be defeated through the power of friendship!!! Or tricked into defeating themselves. That sort of thing.

Do you think they need an actual main character? As opposed to a blank(ish) slate of a character which they can self-insert into? I suppose it would depend on the story.

Where to find an artist?


I wonder if it is possible to code a child-friendly COG game with one image for each page… That would work with kids.


You know, I was just thinking in the shower today (where I have all my best ideas, of course) about how to make an educational CoG. I was taking said shower after watching Big Cat Diaries all morning, so I was picturing a game where kids learned about nature or something. You could also use it to teach kids about history; they have a time machine or something and get to go back and interact with major historical figures.

I personally think a lot of kids stuff these days is too watered-down; I don’t mean in terms of sex and violence, I mean intelligence. People don’t give them enough credit. I know that the vocabulary can’t be too complex because they won’t understand it, but at the same time it can’t be so easy that they aren’t learning any new words. My roommate last year was an English major in the honors program who did IB in high school and had a job writing for the campus news, but she didn’t know what the word “prolific” meant. When her editor called her a prolific writer, she thought it was an insult before she looked it up. I’ve met lots of other intelligent teens and young adults who have a limited vocabulary because they weren’t exposed to enough big words as kids.


Keep the brainstorming going.

@FairyGodfeather, talking animals are always a sure thing. Perhaps a wombat? :bear: And I totally agree about finding nonviolent solutions. I think a premade character would appeal to some kiddos while others might want to create “themselves.” I really don’t think you could go wrong either way.

@ballmot, cost might be a factor, but yes, I think art at least every few pages. Look at how popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid is. That has art all over the place - it’s almost a comic book.

@Mirabella, I love the idea about a time machine. That could lead to alllll sorts of adventures. And yes, I think the perfect story would challenge the kids and teach them but still be accessible and connect with their existing knowledge.


@Sashira Yeah, a maturity toggle would be really great. I’d like to see some added to already published CoGs.

@HornHeadFan You could add the option to either create your own PC or choose from some premade ones. About your assessment of what young girls like to read, I think you’re completely off (sorry). They read a lot of stories like that because those plots make up the majority of books available to them. When they’re introduced to completely different stories, they love those, especially since it’s outside of what they normally get to read.


Well I did say “many young girls.” I didn’t say everyone. I’m all for introducing kiddos to new topics and genres.

I know everyone is different. However, I’m a parent of two young girls, I’ve talked extensively with my wife about the books she read as a kid, and I used to teach elementary school, so I saw what the kiddos brought to school, what they checked out of our class library, and what they bought at book fairs. I will say this though - the kids seemed to like to read about kids slightly older than they were. So 3rd graders liked to read about 5th graders, 5th graders liked to read about middle schoolers, etc.


I agree that they like to read about older kids. Now that I think about it, they also like reading about things they can make up games about, like how kids watch cartoons and then emulate the heroes in them. It’s an obvious sign that they’re really engaged in what they’re reading.


My last thought before I go to bed is that if someone seriously wanted to do this, they might want to find an artist who would work for a split (maybe even 50/50) of the profits, assuming CoG would process royalties in that way. I think the art would be pretty darn important and would need to be professional quality, which probably means the author couldn’t afford to pay for it up front.


Hey, does anyone know whether it’s possible to change the default text size in a COG? You’d think that the font and size of text would be set somewhere in the non-scene files, so can it be changed from there?


Interesting thread. I have a couple of ideas I’ve worked up in Twine that are middle-grade or young adult level.

Question for Dan and the others at CoG…would you be interested in publishing children’s or teen’s titles…either as Hosted or Choice of games? :slight_smile:


Aren’t most CoG/Hosted games teen titles?

I haven’t seen any games for adults or children yet.


@ballmot Young adult books are typically marketed to the 12-16 year old group. I was thinking of titles that are aimed to that age (maybe with characters that age) that are light on the romance and violence. And of course stuff for kids would be even more sanitized so to speak.


I suppose it depends on what you consider appropriate for teens? I was reading way above my grade level, so I was reading books with violence, sexual situations, and horror by the time I was 12. Some of it didn’t make sense to me, but I was used to skimming those parts. I know other teenagers who, at 13-16, wouldn’t want to read that kind of stuff.

And it’s not just about content; Psy High is set in a high school, so it relates to the lives of teenagers, as is my WIP. But as others were saying, while kids like reading about people older than them, it’s not that much older. I don’t think a grade schooler would be very interested in a story about high schoolers. Whereas a CS version of something they can relate to, like a relationship management game at a school, or a mystery with detectives their age, would be a better bet.

Not that there aren’t more good ideas about what to make other than the obvious plots that people write about in kids’ books. Dystopia fiction is huge with teenagers, I think younger kids might be excited about a space survival type game… it depends on difficulty and characters more than specific genre.


In my humble opinion, all the existing games are appropriate for adults. I mean, I certainly don’t think they are teen-centric.

And I soooo want to write a kid’s gamebook now. I even have a fully formed idea. Hmmmm how long could it take to write a 30k word story? A month or two?


We’ve a lot of teens on the forum. I don’t think most of the games are teen centric. There are a number with teen characters mind you. They’re inclusive with a universal appeal. :slight_smile: Maybe.

30K words should easily be done in a month. What, NanoWriMo is 50K words in a month, which is again possible. 30K is only 1,000 words a day and how long does it take to write 1000 words?

I’m curious as to what your idea is.