Friday, 5 February 2021

Gamebook Friday: The Biggest Gamebook Ever?

At midnight, Alba - an Open World Adventure Book funded on Kickstarter, thanks to the support of 10,301 backers*. It's original funding goal was £5,000 but it ended up raising £272,794.

That's over a quarter of a million pounds.

For a gamebook.

While the Alba Kickstarter was running, it seemed to be everywhere. My social media feeds were full of adverts for it**, adverts that seemed to make much of two very particular claims; number one, that it has an innovative non-linear structure, and number two, that it is...

Leaving aside the 'innovative non-linear structure', this second bold (and factually inaccurate) claim was challenged when one of the Alba team posted a link to the Kickstarter on the Fighting Fantasy (and other gamebooks) Facebook group. From the discussion that subsequently took place it seems that the book is roughly 165,000 words long and has 800-900 sections.

I am currently finishing writing my sixth ACE Gamebook, Dracula - Curse of the Vampire. I can tell you that it will be be made up of 1,000 sections and will be at least 150,000 words long, but there are gamebooks already in print that are far longer. For example, The Sword of the Bastard Elf , by H. Skull, is over 1,800 sections long, and I would guess that the word count is suitably massive as well.

The Alba team member in question claimed that their gamebook is the longest based on their research. This would imply that their research wasn't particularly in-depth. Why a book that is 165,000 words long needs to be printed across 1,200 pages I have no idea, but that might be where it really can claim to be 'The Biggest Gamebook Ever Written'. But of course biggest doesn't necessarily mean best.

I realise any comments I make about the book are inevitably going to come across as sour grapes, whether they are intended that way or not, and I will not be able to judge the book fairly until I have read it myself. These are just my observations so far, based on the information that is readily available. It's just that when you start claiming that something is the longest, or the biggest, or the most-innovative, you had better be ready to back-up those claims with some hard evidence.

Alba is published by Inside the Box Board Games and is written by H. L. Truslove. I have not come across Truslove's work before, but that might be because Alba is their first full-length novel.

Credit where it's due, Alba would certainly appear to be a gamebook too, rather than just a Choose Your Own Adventure-style branching narrative***, based on the sticker packs and maps that come with the book.

It certainly benefited from some clever marketing, but I know that some people are annoyed by the fact that higher level backers actually get a longer gamebook. I tried something similar with The Wicked Wizard of Oz, giving the Kickstarter backers some extra content, but it bred resentment in those readers who bought the book later and then couldn't access all of it. I haven't done anything like that since.

The big question is, what does Alba's success mean for the future of gamebooks and gamebooks on Kickstarter in particular?

I suspect nothing, unless it's another gamebook published by Inside the Box Board Games. In fact, it could unfairly disadvantage other gamebook projects, increasing people's expectations of what gamebook crowdfunding projects should deliver, but only time will tell.

I hope to fund the seventh ACE Gamebook later this year. I would be delighted if some of the interest and goodwill generated by Alba rubs off on it, but I very much doubt that it will.

In other news HEOROT is currently 67% funded on Kickstarter. I did tag Inside the Box Board Games on Twitter asking if they'd mind giving my project a signal boost, but I guess they haven't had a chance to check all their Twitter notifications yet.

* And yes, I was one of them. I decided to back in the final few hours, just so I could see what all the fuss was about myself when the book is published in March.

** I've since discovered there were YouTube videos about the project and pieces in the press too.

*** Long-time readers will already know of my distinction between branching narratives and gamebooks.

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