Interaction Before Electronics

I remember the software package that came with my first computer had an interactive game on CD. How the game progressed depended upon which answers you gave at critical points. This was my first exposure to interactivity.

So I was surprised to learn that interactivity predated computer technology. There was a series of books from 1979 to 1998 called Choose Your Own Adventure that let kids determine the storylines. They originally sold over 250 million copies, and are making a comeback today.

The first was The Cave of Time, an adventure written in the second person. Many pages gave you a choice at the bottom — “seek shelter”? (turn to Page 6); “brave the freezing wind to see more of the world about you”? (Page 16). There are 40 possible endings, with ten ending in catastrophe.

The idea originated with Edward Packard, a lawyer in New York, who ran out of material while telling his two daughters a bedtime story. He asked the girls what should happen next, and started recording all their answers. The result was Packard and his co-authors wrote 184 novels. They can be called the analog predecessor to modern video games. Plus they have one major advantage — if you don’t like the ending, just go back a few pages and make a different decision.

Taken from “Is the Future of Entertainment the 40-Years-Old ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Series?” by Jane C. Hu ( Also see The series is still available on (

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