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Item - Consider the Consequences

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Online Full Text: Internet Archive
Series: Miscellaneous Works by Doris Webster and Mary Alden Hopkins
Authors: Webster, Doris
Hopkins, Mary Alden
Date: 1930
Length: 186 pages ("Helen" story - 35 sections, plus introduction; "Jed" story - 18 sections, plus introduction; "Saunders" story - 30 sections, plus introduction)
Number of Endings: "Helen" story - 17 endings; "Jed" story - 10 endings; "Saunders" story - 16 endings
User Summary: The reader makes choices to determine the fates of three protagonists in three separate narratives: Helen, Jed and Saunders. The narratives are connected, with overlapping characters.
Advertisement Blurb: A group of stories in which the reader, at the climax, is made to consider the consequences and choose between them. The fun is in seeing how the story works out. "The most amazing combination of parlor game and fiction that has yet been published."--Boston Transcript.
Guillermo's Thoughts:

The fact that what appears to be the first pick-your-path book in history was written by two women is a remarkable achievement. Consider the Consequences is written in brief, concise prose reminiscent of later classics of interactive fiction such as Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy (and in typical CYOA manner, it includes an introductory page which explains how the book is supposed to be read). It consists of three separate -though related- stories, and at the beginning of each there is even a diagram of the different pathways the story can take, similar to the ones Borges would include a decade later in his An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain.

Even though people may find the idea of reading a book from the thirties off-putting, I found this to be a fascinating read. This being a book for adults, the choices included have really serious consequences, and the ability to play as either a female or one of two male characters allows the reader to gain greater insights into certain aspects of the social life of the era (such as social class, marriage, divorce, single motherhood, and women's increasing emancipation and participation in the labor force). The thirties were a time of significant changes in social norms, which are highlighted in a manner that manages to be both entertaining and educational. The book makes great reading material for people interested in subjects such as sociology or gender studies, especially because it makes the reader face the consequences of his or her decisions without ever becoming censorious or preachy. Contrary to what you might expect from a book from this era, the story deals with topics such as alcoholism, unmarried cohabitation, unusual family arrangements, political corruption, and even suicide without trying to obscure or sugarcoat their implications. It also details both player and nonplayer characters with a level of psychological depth I've very seldom seen in interactive fiction - the reader will find him or herself clashing with the social mores of the era, and how he or she responds to them will in turn shape his or her character's happiness in later life. Along some paths, the reader will find him or herself to be contributing to social change as his or her decisions successfully defy prevailing norms and taboos.

Notably for such an early work, the structure of the adventures is quite complex, with several story branches crossing with each other instead of all the paths remaining separate. Overall, I highly recommend this book for its entertainment value and developed gameplay, as well as for having demonstrated the capabilities of the interactive medium in a remarkably early era.

More reviews by Guillermo

rwelean's Thoughts:

Consider the Consequences (1930) is considered to be the first game book. It has narrative choices that you make by flipping to a certain page to get multiple endings. I'm often more interested in the concept of a game book than actually reading it, but this one was surprisingly domestic and interesting. The three sections of the book let the reader make choices as first Helen, then Jed, and then Saunders. Each section starts with a node diagram of the available branches in that section. The book is co-written by two women, Doris Webster and Mary Alden Hopkins.

The characters and their situations reflect the cultural values of the 1930s, and it's a fascinating window into the social norms surrounding marriage, child support, investments, and other social topics. I found myself irritated when the book seemed overly concerned that my mother would be left at home with no one to keep her company, which is actually an important consideration, if you think about it. The men's stories similarly have the status of their mother's home to consider when investing or spending.

Helen's first choice is whether to marry the irresponsible son of a rich widow or not; if you marry him, you have a baby right away, but it turns out he's an alcoholic and his mother is emotionally dependent on him. Helen's choices are fairly broad. You can end up as a writer to a fancy magazine who falls in love with your editor, and you can choose whether to pursue an affair and ask him to get a divorce, pursue an affair and not ask him to get a divorce, or not pursue an affair. The results are fairly sensible. If you choose to have the affair without him getting a divorce, you have a little difficulty finding an apartment but have some passionate moments together and can't compete with his love for his children. You can also end up at home keeping your mother company! The book has a wry humor that comes out in the endings, which are a considered opposite to moral fairy tales, but definitely have a practical "moral." For example: "the consequence of Helen's choosing the prudent course was that she was safe." Or "the consequence of denying herself an unpractical romance or a broken heart was the discovery that she could love a second time as heartily as the first time."

The style of the book is matter-of-fact, and time passes rapidly between choice nodes. It was refreshing to be able to play a "romance" game book with such a variety of options, all of which were given due consideration, and that progressed so rapidly. While there were some old-fashioned values in the book, like when your character gets away with murder by revealing that the victim was in a romantic relationship with his wife, the available options and reflections felt surprisingly progressive. I highly recommend this early gamebook if you can borrow a copy (I borrowed mine through my university's interlibrary loan service).

More reviews by rwelean

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes and the William Charvat Collection of American Literature at Ohio State University for the dustjacket images and to Yale University Library for loaning the copy whose front cover I scanned.
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