Escape from Tenopia Island, The Last of Us, and Branching Narratives

This post is an answer to an exam question.

I chose Escape from Tenopia Island, a CYOA eBook I downloaded, because I found its sci-fi plot interesting. The novel’s plot centers around an apocalyptic event during which my spaceship collides with a meteor. I am the only person to survive the impact, and I abandon my spaceship by entering a lifepod that lands on the dangerous planet of Tenopia inhabited by giant human-like creatures called crogocides. During the remainder of the novel, I have to find a way to return home to Zindor.

Enslaved by the inhabitants of Tenopia in a mine, I attempt to find a way to escape. I am told by a fellow slave named Prespar that there is a secret tunnel leading to freedom that we can take at night. I follow him when it’s dark, and we exit the tunnel. I now have to decide whether to go east, south, or west. If I go east, I will enter the steaming wastes; if I go south, I’ll run straight into the crogocides; if I go west, I’ll arrive at a place called Kacita. I choose to go west in my first run-through of the novel, and part ways with Prespar. I arrive at Kacita, walk through the settlement to two roads leading out of the town: one goes southeast, the other south. I choose to go southeast. I arrive at a settlement of bird people and befriend a bird child named Alom, who tells me that the only way to Zindor is by crossing the Rapoor River, which is filled with flesh-eating razor fish. I take my chances and decide to cross the river instead of returning to Kacita. Luckily, I make it across the river, jump into the back of a moving cart, and find myself at a crossroads. I decide to take the road leading towards the sun. I eventually reach a town called Sera and speak with a Shaman who advises me to take a boat west to Medea instead of going east. I follow his advice and eventually arrive at Zindor. In my second playthrough, I decided to enter the steaming wastes at the first branch. This led to an alternate series of events that nevertheless converged on the same ending as my previous playthrough.

I found the branching structure in Escape from Tenopia Island similar to the implementation of choices in The Last of Us. For instance, I found the branch that presented me with the option of taking a path that would lead to an encounter with the crogocides, or of avoiding the crogocides by taking alternate routes, as reminiscent of the choice I had to make of either combating zombies or avoiding them using stealth in The Last of Us. However, the real-time feedback from the choices I made in The Last of Us, and the option to quickly change choices based on such feedback, were not present in Escape from Tenopia. The video game platform afforded me the ability to witness the results of my choices as I made them, and to quickly change those choices depending on how successful they were. If, for instance, I decided to stealthily maneuver through a building crawling with zombies, and was discovered by one, I could immediately decide to attack the zombie, or to evade it until I was not longer detected and then attempt to renavigate the building stealthily. However, the paper-and-ink platform on which Escape from Tenopia is based meant that I could not make new decisions until I reached another branch in the narrative.

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