I chose Space and Beyond for my CYOA novel. The book’s narrator speaks directly to “you.” You are a space-native child who begins the book by choosing which planet to attain citizenship in, and then you continue to navigate, in various ways, your journeys to and about these outer-space planets. The branches are of different lengths and end in many different ways (both successful and unsuccessful). I chose Space and Beyond mostly based on the book cover’s visuals. I thought it looked like a fun, silly, and simple read based on the dinosaur and spaceship, and I figured it would also have some adventure narratives that I would find entertaining.

The first adventure I followed began with choosing to become a citizen of Kenda, because that planet sounded more familiar and comfortable than the alternative. After that I mostly chose the options that would take me to the larger page number, because I wanted to get as far into the book as possible. This resulted in me taking a space pod to Kenda alone, having technical troubles in transit, radioing Kenda for help twice, and then dying as a result of a shock wave I created before I even made it to Kenda. In my second adventure, I still chose Kenda. I then had the same technical difficulties to begin with, but instead chose to return to the mother ship, and sent out an SOS call to the mother ship, which attracted aliens who I refused to assist in their mission. The aliens cursed me, so I flew away to empty space and the adventure ended. In both of these experiences, I finished and felt satisfied with my clear “The End” conclusion, but was curious about all the content I could tell I was missing on other paths, and also thought it was odd that my second adventure had so much plot that had nothing to do with the initial conflict of choosing a citizenship and joining a planet–it seemed like a side quest became the main and only story there.

Using a paper CYOA made all the content I was missing much more tangible. As I chose one path over the other, I was physically passing over pages of writing that I didn’t get to experience, whereas in a digital branching narrative, like the Cat Simulator, those other paths are hidden, and the illusion of only my path existing, or that I am creating the path as I make my selections, is easier to uphold in a digital space than on a printed page. A branching narrative affords choice–in a very limited manner. Reading a CYOA almost makes a novel like All You Need Is Kill seem more substantial or meaningful, because that story seems intentionally written and decided upon singularly by the author, whereas my decisions on what path to take felt arbitrary, and it was hard for me to believe that every path I chose was worthwhile and of equal value.

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