Those who speak for Europe, by @cesieong

Those_who_speak_for_Europe,_by_@cesieong
.”Speakers of Europe: EU Elections Recommendations Booklet“, with the enthusiastic subtitle “The first gamebook about the EP Elections!” is an atypical gamebook, at least among those usually being mentioned in this blog. It’s a gamebook that offers some guidelines on making campaigns to encourage participation in elections, more specifically the elections for the European Parliament in 2014.

Gamebooks with an educational purpose have a long history. They are in fact older than the narrative gamebooks themselves. So, the “TutorText” series of interactive textbooks, inspired on the ideas about “programmed learning” from the psychologist, behaviorist and social philosopher B.F.Skinner, started being published no less than in 1958, and was aknowledged as an influence by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.

Speakers of Europe” was an 8 days course aimed at social workers and community managers from several countries, in which the matter of the elections to the EU Parliament was discussed, and abstention was perceived as a critical threat. From that starting point of view, they were asked to design a campaign to encourage voting. One of the products from that campaign was this gamebook.

The choices in this gamebook are few, and I think it’s interesting to mention them. On the second page, two options are presented:

  • Are we an individual?
  • Or are we a civil society organisation?

Those_who_speak_for_Europe,_by_@cesieong

If we choose the first, we receive a pat on the back and a subtle reprimand, that could be translated to something like “find more people and take the other option“.

#10 YOU ARE AN INDIVIDUAL
You understand the importance of these elections and you want to make a communication campaign, raise awareness and bring more people on board? Just talk about it to your friends!
It is an important and “hot” issue. Involving people into a conversation can help them make an informed decision and this is all you need. It simply takes a little time and energy. If you have it, go for it!
NOW, GO TO #4

So, let’s suppose we have taken the second option. After some advices relative to the message of the campaign and the methods of communication, there’s another choice, perhaps the most interesting one:

  • Do we have money?
  • Or do we have little to no money?

Those_who_speak_for_Europe,_by_@cesieong

For the second option, we are being suggested websites, social media, newsletters, etc. If we have funds, we are proposed paid advertisements, lectures, debates and round tables. And then it goes on giving some more advice to make more effective our hypothetical campaign for participation in the elections to the UE Parliament.

But, in my humble opinion, the people of “Speakers of Europe” have forgotten probably the most interesting option in their second choice. One that, I believe, would turn any of the other suggestions unnecessary:

  • Do we have a ginormous amount of money?

Those_who_speak_for_Europe,_by_@cesieongOh, boy! Here we open up a whole world of possibilities. We can build a lobby! And start being part of a group as cheerful as the one at the UE district in Brussels. Over 1,000 lobby groups, hundreds of public relations firms and law firms offering lobbying services, dozens of corporate think-tanks, offices of “EU affairs” controlled by corporations, more than 15,000 professional lobbyists! Here we could feel as if we were in Disneyworld…

And we wouldn’t even need to make a campaign for votes. Why for? That’s what real professionals are for, consultancies and law firms that would know how to work out the best strategies to combine corporate interests and the world of politics into a unique and wonderful whole. It doesn’t matter what do people vote. Be it the green party, the red party or the blue party, laws will be the color that you and your millionaire friends want them to be. Welcome to the wonderful world of the corridors of power! And if all goes wrong, the Greeks get pig-headed and you have to flee the country, there will always be a charter flight to Bahamas and a delicious Daikiri in good company.

Joking aside, it’s interesting to see how there are gamebooks being written with political statements. This “Speakers of Europe” makes a political statement. It maintains that voting in the UE elections is useful. And, therefore, that it is possible to have an impact in the UE by means of a vote.

It is a message. But, in my opinion, it’s not the only message possible. I can imagine lots of other things I could talk about by means of a different gamebook.

And… why not? A political gamebook, anyone?

Published: 14/05/2015 | Comments: 0

Free roaming: Gamebooks exploring worlds

I have read an interesting article from 2012 in “Jake Care’s gamebook” blog, about the different kinds of gamebook according to their linearity. Basically he divided gamebooks in four categories:

  • Linear: Those gamebooks that offer just one way, allowing few decisions to their readers, and even those of little importance to the story.
  • Convergent: When the diferent paths a reader can travel through will allow to see different aspects and places in the story, but at some point these all converge at the same point at the end of the plot. This is the most common structure for gamebooks.
  • Divergent: Each of the paths is independent from one another, and they almost never converge at the same section. This is the case for most CYOA adventures.
  • Free Roaming: Where the reader can explore freely through the game world, and even come back to places already visited.

Free_roaming:_Gamebooks_exploring_worldsFrom these four categories, the first three have something in common: A section cannot be reached twice. Most of the times, the first time we read a passage will also be the last; the gamebook is designed to make us advance relentlessly through the plot until the end.

Not in the free roaming category; here the characters may move wherever they want and take any action. It’s a kind of design that offers much more freedom to the player, but necessarily force the writer to “lose control of the story”. They force to think in terms of “game world” instead of plot. And that’s perhaps why they are much more uncommon than the other three, since they are much more difficult for a writer. It is, in any case, a kind of design I find very interesting. It allows the reader to get “immersed” in the world of the story, and appeal to the fascination of discovering new locations and secret places, the joy of exploration, instead of focusing on a final task.

There are a few examples of this kind of structure, and I would like to make a brief review of some of them:

1.- Tunnels & Trolls Solitaire Adventures:

Free_roaming:_Gamebooks_exploring_worldsDue to their nature as modules of a role playing game, the solitaire adventures of “Tunnels & Trolls” need this kind of structure; they are thought to be played both in solitaire and with a group of players, and so they must allow more freedom of choice.

The only one I’ve been able to read of this collection is “Buffalo Castle“, the very first one designed for this role playing game. It is a very simple dungeon, quite plain in the narrative aspect and with very little story – it basically is a group of interconnected rooms, each one with a different encounter and very little relation between them. The plot is as simple as they can be; to get inside a dungeon, obtain as much treasure as possible and get out of it alive. Anyway, it is historically important because it was one of the first gamebooks – if not the first – to allow real freedom of movement to the player.

2.- Fighting Fantasy #8: Scorpion Swamp:

Free_roaming:_Gamebooks_exploring_worldsThis Fighting Fantasy title is unusual for several reasons. It was one of the first to experiment with the typical structure of the gamebooks in this series, trying to increase replayability. It allowed the reader to choose between three different missions, in the form of three wizards to which the adventurer could offer his services.

Regarding the adventure, it was – just like in Buffalo Castle – a dungeon crawl, where the “rooms” were clearings inside the titular swamp. The gamebook encourages us to draw a map of our adventure, very similar to those maps that players drew for computer text adventures at the time.

When I read this book as a child, it blew my mind with the sensation of freedom, of exploring a “virtual world”, changing while I explored it. Now, after reading it again, I think it’s an interesting design, innovative in many ways, but a minor adventure in the Fighting Fantasy series, far from the quality level of later titles.

3.- The Fantasy Trip and Legends of the Ancient World:

Free_roaming:_Gamebooks_exploring_worldsThe Fantasy Trip was an old role playing game published by Metagaming, derived from two earlier board games, Melee and Wizard. It was designed by Steve Jackson – the author of the role playing game Gurps, not the same as the equally-named Fighting Fantasy author. This was a role playing game typified by solving the physical conflicts with chips on a board, due to its origins as a board game. It dissappeared in 1983, but still has some followers today.

If we mention it, is because they published some modules for this rpg, designed to be played either with a group of players or in solitaire, similar to those mentioned of “Tunnels & Trolls“. The best of them was probably “Grail Quest“, the third of the series, where we play the part of knights of the arthurian myth, looking for the Holy Grail.

Free_roaming:_Gamebooks_exploring_worldsMany years later, a company called “Dark City Games” decided to release new modules for “The Fantasy Trip“, and for their own system – compatible with “The Fantasy Trip” – called “Legends of the Ancient World“. These modules have the same freedom of movement; the player can explore the game world in any direction, and solve the problems in any order.

I’m surprised I haven’t seen more reviews of these titles. The board game critic Marco Arnaudo has made some videos about them, but apart from him, I’ve found very few references to Dark City Game’s titles. And I think it’s a pity, since many of those stories are very enjoyable, even better than those of “The Fantasy Trip” that inspired them. I will probably make a new article in the future about them, but for those who are curious, I suggest to buy “Ebon Rebirth“, the last in their collection, and the one who has the more open structure of the titles I’ve played.

4.- “Sandboxer Books”:

I found this almost unknown series of gamebooks when randomly looking for new titles in Amazon. I have only read the first of the series, “Red Dog“, but there is a second one waiting on my shelf called “Stronghold“, set in the same world.

Free_roaming:_Gamebooks_exploring_worldsThe case of “Red dog” is a peculiar one. The kind of design is the one we are mentioning here, an open world where the players can go wherever they want and come back to the places they have already visited. However, the sequence of actions we have to take in order to finish the mission is pretty linear. For example, we can go to the airport at any time, but we cannot take a flight unless we have the credit card they give us when we accept a mission. Or we can’t get inside a building unless we have a certain chip implanted to allow us to stay undetected. And every task follows the same linear model; in order to reach “C” we have to go necessarily through “A” and “B”. So, even if this structure would allow a non-linear progress, the story we experiment is the same in any case.

This proves that the “free roaming” structure doesn’t itself guarantee a non-linear progress. The author of this book had a story in his mind, and wanted us to experiment that story and not other, getting rid of one of the main advantages of this kind of design.

Red Dog” has many additional problems – the locations remain unchanging each time we visit them, giving the world a very static feel, there are countless uncorrected gramatical errors… – but in spite of this it may interest those who want to see new ways of structuring gamebooks.

5.- Fabled Lands:

Free_roaming:_Gamebooks_exploring_worldsThis is probably the best known work in this kind of gamebooks, and for a good reason; what Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson archieved here is little short of impressive. This series of books allow to take any kind of action, explore a fantastic world, solve missions, adquire ships to navigate the inner sea, increase the capabilities of our character, transform the world we go through… and keep on playing indefinitely, with the same character, without reaching any “end”. These books simulate a “virtual” life, in the same way that other multiplayer computer games try to do – but in a much more interesting way in my opinion. The fact that they have been able to do this with a paper gamebook is a proof of an amazing capability to handle narrative interactions.

If you have not had the opportunity to read them, you owe yourself to do it. And yes, they are that good.

Conclusion:

This article doesn’t try to be an exhaustive review of all the “free roaming” gamebooks there are, but only a quick glance to a kind of design I personally find very enjoyable, and one that could be explored more. Recent mobile games inspired by gamebooks, like “80 days” and the “Sorcery!” saga by Inkle, go in this direction, and I think that gamebooks – either the paper or the electronic kind – should experiment more with new structures, and try more open designs, that will allow us readers to explore new worlds and live other lives.

Published: 11/05/2015 | Comments: 0

Build an Interactive Story App with @treehouse

Build_an_Interactive_Story_App_with_@treehouseTreehouse is an online interactive education platform that offers courses in web, mobile and business development. It surprised me to find in their library a specific course called “Build an Interactive Story App”. That’s right! A course on how to build a choose-your-own-adventure kind of app, complete with illustrations.

It goes step by step, developing an example story called “Signals from Mars”, an app you can find in Google Play for free – several times, seemingly for all the students that uploaded it when making their tests. The story is a very short and simple CYOA with illustrations, about a ship receiving the mysterious signal mentioned in the title. The illustrations look cool, though.

The course, designed for people who have already some basic notions on Android, teaches how to process user input, design the structure of our story and give the finishing touches to our user interface. It seems a good opportunity for those – like me – who secretly wanted to bring some new stories to your phone. Now you don’t have any excuse to get those creative juices flowing!

You can find the course HERE.

Published: 06/05/2015 | Comments: 0

Westward Dystopia, from @GreekWinter Media

www.international.librojuegos.orgWestward Dystopia is a gamebook from Greek Winter Media. While it started being an application for the Android mobile OS, after a recent and successful crowfunding in Kickstarter, it will also see the light as a printed book and an ebook.

As the name says, Westward Dystopia leads us to a post-apocalyptic world, several hundreds of years after a mysterious event called “the Razing“, that turned the world into a radioactive wasteland. If, after reading these lines, we can think of well known franchises of the genre such as Mad Max, it is no coincidence. The author, Jeffrey Dean, has been clearly inspired by the post-apocalyptic fantasies of the eighties, with their ruins and their hordes of mutants. Nevertheless, the world developed by Jeffrey Dean has a good number of original ideas.

www.international.librojuegos.orgTo begin with, we will find no car chases in the middle of the desert, or great arsenals of weapons. The Razing arrived long time ago, and most of the technology of the previous world has dissappeared. The few who still preserve and learn from that technology, artifact seekers like our protagonist, or a mysterious organization called the Guild of Technomancers, do what they can to keep those discoveries in the hands of a very few. So, for most of the population of the wasteland, any pre-Razing object is considered a kind of magic. In this sense, the world of Westward Dystopia reminds me a bit of the role playing game Numenera, with its conception of technology as magic, and the great ruins of forgotten civilizations full of traps and powerful discoveries.

And what exactly is our story about? Our main character is an artifact hunter, who has to obtain the key that will allow him to get inside the protective barrier of the ruins of an ancient city. Those who obtain that key will have access to the whole technology hidden in the city, which means to incline the balance of power greatly for whichever faction who gets it. Initially, our objective will be to hand over this power to the High Lords of the city of Benaeron, the ruling class of said city, who have promised us enough richness to live in peace for the rest of our lives.

www.international.librojuegos.orgAt the same time, other groups are trying to stop us. Some mysterious mercenaries have been hired to eliminate us at the beginning of our story, and the Guild of Technomancers, an organization we were part of but we flew from once they discovered we were a Shaper – a kind of mutant with powers of energetic manipulation -, is also behind our tracks.

The story is more than 120.000 words long. It has been designed to allow great replayability. We will be able to discover many secret places and hidden aspects for the many characters we’ll find. Another nice touch where I could see the attention for detail in this gamebook is in the endings; Not only there are 6 “good” endings, some of them radically different from the others, but also every single “bad” ending has a specific written section. No matter how good or bad we make it, there will always be an ending for our story.

I think that one of the most interesting aspects of this story is in our character. A mercenary who sells his work to the powerful in order to survive, but questions the morality of what he does and, as we can often read between the lines, asks himself if it’s worth offering such a powerful technology to those who make the life of the population miserable. We see through his internal monologues how he condemns himself for having to take specific decisions, even if they are necessary for his objectives. Deep inside, he’d like to live in a fairer world, and resents the circumstances that force him to be evil.

www.international.librojuegos.orgThat’s why, even though I’ve really enjoyed this story, I think I will enjoy the next ones even more. I get the feeling that Jeffery Dean is going to dig deeper in the societies of the wasteland, and all those themes – so uncommon for gamebooks – as the consequences and the morality of our actions in an unfair world, will be developed in more detail.

In short, Westward Dystopia is a great story, well written and full of details. I have yet to read another review for this gamebook, and that surprises, because I feel this story deserves more attention.

It could be that the looks of this Android app have discouraged buyers; even if the app is well tested and does what it needs to be done, the interface isn’t as “flashy” as those of other companies like Tin Man Games, with all the fancy 3D dices. Also, the drawings by David White, even if they are appropiate and grow on you the more you look at them, they are less “spectacular” or “sexy” than those of other companies. That’s why I’d like to encourage giving an opportunity to this work to those who didn’t find it attractive at first sight. With some good stories, it’s when getting immersed in them when we discover what they really have to offer, and Westward Dystopia is no exception.

And, if reading on a phone screen is not of our liking, be on the lookout for the next edition on ebook and paper!

Greek Winter Media

Kickstarter Page

Published: 04/05/2015 | Comments: 0

We have a Facebook account

Since an hour ago, we have librojuegosinternational account in Facebook!!

Published: 01/05/2015

Game of Thrones: A @telltalegames series

www.international.librojuegos.orgTelltale games, an American independent digital publisher devoted to the development of graphic adventure games in an episodic fashion, has started a new series called “Game of Thrones“, based on the popular cycle of fantasy novels “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin. It joins several other series developed by this company, based on popular licensed properties, either in comic books, cinema or television (“The Walking Dead“, “Jurassic Park” or “Back to the Future“) or videogames (“Monkey Island“, “Sam & Max” or the upcoming “Minecraft: story mode“).

international.librojuegos.orgWhat makes this series interesting for this blog is the kind of focus they wanted to give to the story. Although there have been several action scenes included, most of the interaction in the story lies in taking some specific choices. Difficult decisions, dialogues, with characters… Rather than fighting or shooting our way through the story, here the focus is in the characters and their interactions. Through those decisions – and their inevitable consequences – we will outline one of the many possible stories. As we can see, what Telltale games aims to do with this “Game of Thrones” is bringing the kind of narratives we can find in interactive fiction or gamebooks to the world of graphic adventure games.

Visually, this “Game of Thrones” is clearly inspired by the HBO series of the same name, but it offers something different to the fan of the series by delving into a part of the epic that neither the television series nor the novels dig very deeply; the story of the Forresters clan, only briefly referenced in the books.

At this moment, there are three finished episodes of a planned total of six. You can find their website

Here

Published: 29/04/2015 | Comments: 0

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