1.1 What is a gamebook?
As with many things, there is some debate over what the word "gamebook" should refer to. For the purposes of this site, I define "gamebook" as any book in which the reader participates in the story by making choices which affect the course of the narrative. In the interest of broadness, I also include multi-player combat book games such as Lost Worlds and other hybrids that use the basic interactive book format to provide entertainment for multiple players.
Not counting the combat book games, there are really three families of gamebooks. The oldest is the branching-plot novel, typified by the Choose Your Own Adventure series. This type of book requires the reader to make choices but is otherwise like a regular novel. The next type to appear is the role-playing game solitaire adventure, first introduced in Flying Buffalo's Tunnels and Trolls line. These books combine the branching-plot concept with the rules of a role-playing game, allowing a role-player to advance his or her character without the help of a game master. The final type, which many people consider to be the only sort of book worthy of the title "gamebook," is similar to the RPG solitaire adventure except that it has complete rules included with the book so that no separate manuals need to be purchased. This concept was introduced in Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's popular Fighting Fantasy series.
Some people also like to include "solve-it-yourself" mysteries in their definitions of "gamebook." I exclude them, however, because although it is sort of game-like to read a mystery and then try to guess the solution before revealing it, it isn't very interactive. Trying to guess the outcome is part of reading any mystery, and making this aspect of the experience more explicit doesn't really change anything. Still, I am beginning to include some of these books in my database; as with the non-interactive game-inspired novels that I list, there is enough overlap of themes and/or authors with "real" gamebooks to make them of some interest.
1.2 Where can I get gamebooks?
Gamebooks first became popular during the eighties, and many of those early titles are now comparatively rare. However, there are still ways to find them. For used copies, I recommend eBay, half.com, amazon.com or bookfinder.com. I've also heard that gamebooks are sometimes traded at swapbooks.com. You can also use the collection management features of this site to trade with or buy from other users. Finally, brand new copies of the relatively recent Fighting Fantasy reprints are available in many countries. Also be sure to check out Project Aon, the online home of the Lone Wolf series. A few more sources for gamebooks can be found on the links page.
2.1 Why isn't this title in your database?
If you have a gamebook that isn't in my database, then there are two possibilities. Either I haven't had time to add it yet (things are still under construction, especially foreign-language titles) or else you've got something very rare indeed, and I'd love to hear about it! E-mail details to me (my address is in the footer of this page). Be warned, though, that I have more than a year's worth of e-mail that needs to be added to my checklists, so it may be quite a wait for your information and acknowledgement to appear on the list. Time is scarce these days!
3.1 Who are you, anyway?
My name's Demian Katz, and I'm a computer programmer/librarian living in Pennsylvania. In addition to the maintenance of this site, I am also heavily involved in the VuFind open source catalog project through my work at Villanova University. Also, as you may have guessed, I like gamebooks.
3.2 How'd you get interested in gamebooks?
I discovered Choose Your Own Adventure books through a librarian friend of my mother's when I was about seven, and just two years later, I found my first "real" gamebook, The Mines of Moria from the Middle-earth Quest series, at a shady farmers' market stand selling coverless paperbacks. World of Lone Wolf soon followed, and from that point on, I always displayed a certain preference for interactive reading.
3.3 Why do you maintain this website?
In the late nineties, I had sort of forgotten about gamebooks, but then at a remaindered-books clearance sale, I came across a copy of Spectral Stalkers from the Fighting Fantasy series. I was shocked to see that more than the twenty-one books published in the United States had actually been written, and this inspired me to take inventory of my collection. Once I got Internet access, I decided it would be fun to share this inventory with the world, and thanks to the help of dozens of interested readers, it has grown into something far bigger than anything I could have created on my own. I don't have as much time for it as I used to, but it's a truly rewarding hobby.
3.4 What's your favorite gamebook?
Well, the truth of the matter is that I don't think many gamebooks are all that good. I love the potential of the format, but I think most of what's been done with it is pretty disappointing. The one book that really stands out from the crowd, though, is Kim Newman's Life's Lottery, which I think everyone should take the time to read. Beyond that, my preferences tend to lean more towards personal nostalgia than literary quality, and they're not really worth sharing (though if you read enough of my reviews, you'll get an idea of what I like and dislike).
3.5 Why haven't you reviewed my favorite books yet?
When I pick books to review, there are several things I consider. First of all, I prefer to review books from series that I own complete sets of, since I like to analyze the whole series in the order that it was written. Another consideration is whether or not anyone else has ever written about the books. I like to provide coverage of really obscure things like Meet Me at the Fair simply because if I don't do it, no one will. Finally, there's my mood; sometimes I just feel like a particular kind of thing. I do listen to reader requests, though, so if there's something you'd really like to see a page on, feel free to ask. I make no guarantees, but I'm open-minded! In any case, whatever my personal whims, you can always sign up for a free account and write your own reviews!