These visualizations of Choose Your Own Adventure books are the best kind of data viz. Oh man. Christian Swinehart goes beyond mere correlation, way beyond eye candy. His narrative-crunching reveals new patterns—patterns I wouldn’t even have thought to wonder about. For instance: in a CYOA book, the story can end on any page. How are endings distributed throughout a book? Now you know.
But, re: eye candy, it is of course all absolutely beautiful.
However… in a project full of beauty, it’s not even the beauty I liked best. It was this detail, noted near the end, about the Choose Your Own Adventure book called UFO 54-40:
The branch diagram for UFO 54-40 is unique in that it has one ending—the Ultima ending—which is completely disconnected from the rest of the story. It exists as an island, unreachable through choices but discoverable thanks to the random access nature of the book.
An unreachable ending. AN UNREACHABLE ENDING. And yet:
This ending was not just an easter egg for the obsessive reader who didn’t mind skimming every page looking for telltale words. Instead it’s hard to miss in even a casual riffling. A two-page illustration showing what could only be paradise (or perhaps a theme park) leaps out as the only spread in the book without any text. Flipping to the page before brings you to 101, where you discover that your curiosity has been rewarded. You have found the planet, not by following the constraints of the system, but by going outside of them—a fitting moral to the story and an encouraging reminder that any game should be a starting point for the imagination, not the end.
It’s the Kobayashi Maru! I am stunned and charmed.
Update: Some CYOA context! Mark Sample provides a history of Choose Your Own Adventure viz.