Gamebooks: Take an Active Role in Reading

I tend to get a lot of flak for my reading choices. Mostly because, as someone who seems educated in the way of words, I can be found reading Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books almost as often as what some might consider more serious, complex fiction. Have you heard the saying “I don’t know art, but I know what I like”? Well, that’s the best I can describe the reasoning behind my reading choices. I read it because I like it. That’s the way it should be, I think, reading should be pleasurable, so ultimately, it shouldn’t matter if you decide to read something called The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future (I really liked this one in case anyone was wondering). To heck with what other people say, if you like children’s books, or paranormal teen books, or romance novels just this side of obscene (I’m not ashamed to admit I also really like these), don’t be embarrassed to admit it. Embrace your inner bookworm!

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I bring this up because I was recently given a few sideways glances for reading one of my old, worn-out gamebooks. A gamebook, in case you were wondering, is a fictional work that allows the reader to participate in the story by making effective choices.  Depending on the choice, the reader is directed to another page or chapter where that branch of the story continues. Do you choose to ignore the innkeeper’s advice about staying out of the dragon infested woods? Turn to page 43. Do you want to stay at the inn and have some stew? Turn to 92. You might recognize them by their proprietary eponym Choose your own Adventure books. Along with the branching novel format where the reader—you guessed it—chooses their own adventure by making choices that determine the main character’s actions, there are also gamebooks with slightly more emphasis on the “game” aspect. This is the type of book I was reading/playing, the kind where the reader resolves actions, like combat and physical challenges, using a pen, paper, and dice.

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Though gamebooks are seen predominantly as a form of entertainment for children, like comics and graphic novels, they can be used to supplement language learning curriculums to great effect.

Students tired of taking the backseat when reading will find these formats engaging and the challenge of finding successful endings can encourage multiple readings of a story. They can also be read as a group in classroomenvironments with students taking turns reading passages and then deciding as a group which course of action to take. This can also be a fun party game with the right book.

Reluctant readers who prefer video games to reading may enjoy adventure gamebooks like the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf series (remember those from the 80s?) where the reader is immersed in the fictional world and asked to resolve conflict or test the protagonists success in different ventures with dice rolls. Some books even allow the reader to accumulate possessions within the book’s reality in order to complete the given quest.

choose your own adventureIf you can’t find a gamebook originally written in your target language, check the internet for translated versions of these English language examples, there are many; the Lone Wolf series has been translated into 18 languages. For anyone looking for a little encouragement with their ESL studies, publishers McGraw-Hill Education have been adapting the Choose Your Own Adventure series by simplifying the language and making the protagonists gender and age neutral to make them suitable for English learners.

Sure these books may seem like kid-lit, but not only can they make reading an active pastime, they can also help you play your way to important language skills. There’s nothing guilty about the pleasure of reading, so be proud of your collection of books, even if it’s overrun with cartoon characters and gamebooks like mine.

Have you ever read/played a gamebook? If yes, please comment. If no, please turn to page 100.*


*Just kidding. If you haven’t read one, try them out. You might like it.