Gijs Bakker

This is a portfolio/blog of Gijs Bakker, UX (interaction and UI) designer from Amsterdam.
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ZORK – 80s interactive fiction books

When you read a novel or watch a movie or tv-series, the writer takes you by the hand and guides you through the story he has written. The story is linear and you passively consume it.
Many video games and board games also follow a story line, but in this case the reader is a ‘player’ and controls the game in various ways. The story does not have to be linear and the player consumes the story (inter)actively.

Lightyears ago, I found this book called ZORK: The Malifestro Quest in a local thrift shop.
It was a small series of fiction novels in the 80s aimed at the younger reader, that introduced a non-linear storyline, dependent on the reader’s decisions. Basically a form of interactive books. Or as they called it: ‘What-Do-I-Do-Now Books’. The reader would start reading the story just like in any other novel, but at some certain pages, there were different paths the reader could take to continue the story. For example:
Do you want the character to do A? Turn to page x.
Do you want the character to do B? Turn to page x.
Do you want the character to do C? Keep reading.

Decisions on page of the ZORK book 'The Cavern of Doom'

Story options on a page of the first ZORK book ‘The Cavern of Doom’. (Note: because this is from the hyperlinked version, there is no need to display pagenumbers)

As the reader progresses through the book, eventually she of course reaches the end of the story, regardless of her choices. But the storyline could be entirely different depending on which decisions the reader makes. Basically, you could read the book a couple of times and experience something different every time.

Although I’m not really into the Dungeons and Dragons theme, I think this is a very cool way of putting an interactive, non-linear element into a novel. However, to my knowledge it hasn’t been incredibly popular in book form – I guess sometimes we just like sit back and have the writer make the decisions for us.

I found a website that has put the content of one of the four book into HTML:
http://boraski.com/zork/

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