Dr. Egon Spengler (Ghostbusters) says that print is dead. I would say that there is so much more that we can do than just a linear story line 100% controlled by the author, in the (non-participatory) story-telling tradition.
As I kid, I was intrigued by the choose-your-path mystery books. At every critical junction, you had to decide which way to go, and then the story split depending on your choice. Do you enter the shadowy crypt, or go back for help? Turn to page 37 or 59 accordingly. One book, fifty-seven different short story endings. This was possibly inspired by adventure games from the computer era. But what else can we do with a paperback, that gets chucked in your backpack or purse and is impervious to shock, beach sand, or ketchup spills, and needs no batteries?
An interesting two-player game, I also saw as a kid, simulated an aerial dogfight in WWI biplanes. Each player had a book that on any given page showed a picture of what the sky looked like – where the enemy was. For instance, you saw a side view of their plane far ahead. Your opponent was on a matching page in their book, which showed a picture of the front view of your plane, but way off to the side. You each pick a maneuver secretly then reveal it, cross-reference the results, and you end up on a new matched pair of pages. If you get the other plane in your machine-gun sites, you score points, and eventually get enough points to shoot them down.
I have a vision of a one-player paperback media book simulating an open-ended adventure. For example, you are administrator of a space station and each crew member assigned to you is represented by a bookmark, once they come up to orbit and join you. There are 4 different orientations possible for a bookmark, representing their condition – fresh, fatigued, pregnant, dead, tripping – whatever is needed, depending on the story. You also have a bookmark for each critical resource etc. You assign each crew member to a station (page number position), with a job to do, to build resources, get the station up and running, and make progress on the problems facing the station.
Each game turn you work through the stations (page number positions) in a set sequence, adjusting resources etc. as you go, depending on who is manning the station, if anyone. You then get adventure loops happen whenever certain combinations of characters in certain states are put together to work. The hot lover and the virgin are stationed together, and the virgin’s status changes…. Some characters freak out if left alone, or are left alone in the morgue with the dead body of another character….. You have to send somebody out on the shuttle to investigate X. And so it goes.
The game ends when you, as administrator, work the station up to full capability and solve all the problems at hand. Sound fun?
Sound like something anybody wants to write?
I’m sure there are more formats we could use to revive the ancient and revered paperback, but this is the idea that has me obsessed….