With the introduction of smart assistants that can interact with users, interactive fiction has been an intriguing possibility for game developers and publishers. Today, Audible is bringing interactive stories to life by joining Amazon’s Alexa skills with Chooseco’s Choose Your Own Adventure series.
The Vermont-based company has partnered with Audible to produce an audiobook version of its stories. At launch are two titles: The Abominable Snowman and Journey Under the Sea. It works as you might think: you open the story by saying, “Alexa, open Choose Your Own Adventure,” and a narrator begins to read from the book. Once you reach a decision point, they ask you what you’d like to do, and the story proceeds to the next point. When you reach an ending, the skill will ask if you want to double back to undo an untimely death or accident, or if you just want to see what fate a different choice at a crucial moment might have brought. The skill will keep a tally of how far you’ve made it through the story and how many endings you’ve discovered, encouraging you to go through it again and again.
Interactive fiction isn’t anything new, and there have been some notable examples in the last year, from 20th Century Fox’s “Offworld Colony Simulator,” which allowed you to explore an alien-infested colony, to Netflix’s interactive adventure Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which led to a lawsuit from Chooseco. Chooseco has also been hard at work trying to leverage its particular brand of storytelling beyond the iconic white-and-red books for young readers: it released interactive DVDs of some of its stories over a decade ago, attempted a Kickstarter to fund an interactive iPad App in 2013, and, as of last year, it was working with 20th Century Fox to produce an interactive movie for moviegoers.
But the end result of Audible and Chooseco’s partnership is probably one of the better efforts out there. This isn’t a project that’s been approached as a regular skill where Alexa reads from a script in its familiar voice. Instead, Audible has produced a full-fledged Choose Your One Adventure audiobook, with a proper narrator. That’s important because a skilled narrator can make or break a story, bringing additional depth and emotion to the text that enhances the story for listeners.
In this case, it prompted my five-year-old son to dive under a table when we reached a section where we were attacked by Yetis in The Abominable Snowman, and it prompted wonder in Journey Under the Sea when he told me that he became an underwater farmer. That level of interaction goes beyond a mere skill, and if Audible decides to continue the franchise, it’ll have plenty of titles to choose from in Choose Your Own Adventure’s library of nearly 200 titles. I have my fingers crossed for Inside UFO 54-40.