Monday, April 22, 2013

April A to Z - S is for Smith, Paul

I interviewed Paul Smith (aka Torallion) last year as one of my R entries and since he was such a great bloke, I asked him to come back again.  Since April 2012, I met Paul at the release of Blood of the Zombies.

Torallion has a playthrough blog here with his very thorough and entertaining reviews of various Fighting fantasy books.  Give it a read before reading the interview.  Go on.

you can also follow him on Twittter.

On with the interview...

I got into gamebooks during my first year at secondary school, when a friend wandered over to me in the school library with a copy of House of Hell in his hand. "This is awesome," he said, thrusting it in front of my confused face. "It's not really a book, it's a game!" I snorted derisively and he went off to read it, but later on my curiosity got the better of me and I went and found the book on the shelf. Minutes later I was hooked and my life changed forever. I loved the fact that I was in control of my own horror story (and the fact that this made it even more horrific) and I loved the combat system and stat-keeping. I started to pick up every Fighting Fantasy book I saw, popping into a local second-hand bookshop so often that the owner would look out for the green spines and put them aside for me. Before long I had a full collection and had expanded my interests to Lone Wolf and other series. In the mid 90s, much to my dismay, gamebooks started to disappear from the shelves and I moved on to tabletop games and RPGs.

The recent renaissance in the world of gamebooks (I keep saying that, but it's been a few years now) has inspired me to relive my old adventures and the internet provides a fantastic opportunity for us not only to find new adventures but to invent and share our own. My blog, Gamebook Geek, is an excuse to do just that. In the last year I've been working my way slowly through the books - what with my job, getting married and doing a PGCert course - but I'm determined to keep going and eventually expand beyond playthroughs and reviews to discussing wider issues of game design. Eventually I hope to start developing my own gamebook, but that's probably a long way off at the moment.

As for the future of gamebooks, I think they're going to stick around for a long time. The rise of mobile apps is a huge step forward and one which is pushing gamebooks further and further into the mainstream, and internet communities have sprung up where people can express both nostalgia for the old gamebooks and creativity in creating new ones. The electronic format is definitely a large part of the future of gamebooks, but I'm hopeful that printed versions will continue to be produced, aka Destiny Quest. I'd like to see gamebooks explore different concepts - while hack 'n' slash has its place, it would be great to see gamebooks where the choices made have real consequences, beyond "you don't have this item so the dragon eats you". Imagine a gamebook based on the ideas explored in Planescape: Torment or Tides of Numenera. The Windhammer competition has started to attract increasingly creative entries and I'm already looking forward to seeing another batch of entries later this year. There are also opportunities for educational uses - learning through scenarios or playing the role of historical figures, for example. Games-based learning is becoming increasingly popular and gamebooks, electronic or otherwise, could be a big part of that.

Here is Paul's blog and Twitter account.

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  1. I too would like to see the paper genre of gamebooks continue, but it's a bit hard to justify. Destiny Quest is the only recent example of a paper gamebook, and aside from nostalgic/aesthetic value, everything about Destiny Quest would be dramatically improved by making it digital. Harumph.

    I'm having a "Back in my day..." moment. haha

    1. It's a difficult one. There is something unique about a physical gamebook that is lost when converting to digital format but it's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is. Bookiness?