Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gamebook terminology

This week, my post ends with a question.  I'll be happy to hear your thoughts!

So I was reading Grey Wiz's post about the problems with gamebooks  and I clicked on one of the links to find a glossary of terms for games.

This was big news to me (and I kicked myself for not thinking of it sooner).  I love looking up all kinds of terms and defining them.  I don't know why, but when I was younger, I enjoyed looking up words in the dictionary that weren't even rude.  I then stumbled across the Curious and Interesting Book of Numbers where I could find out all about the numbers out there, right up to Graham's number.  Ever since I discovered   it, I am an enthusiastic TVTropes addict and I enjoy looking up words in Urban Dictionary.  I think I enjoy looking terms up so much because it is a discrete bitesize chunk of information that I can gobble up quickly.

So anyway, I am enjoying my latest dictionary of terms and it made me think.

Having common terms in any field of study is essential to move it forward.  With common terms, two people are able to have a discussion and exchange information far faster than two people who have to explain what they mean to each other first.  If we did not have common specialist terms, no one would make any progress - instead, they would just explain to each other what they mean.

So the question is, what game terminology should we use and is there any gamebook specialist terminology that we should nail down.  For example, does one play or read a gamebook?  Is a gamebook different to interactive fiction or a subset of it? Would there be a different term for a book like Destiny Quest (stat heavy) and Frankenstein (a story that you explore)


  1. You should make a GB dictionary, Stuart.

    From reviews, esoteric terms that come to mind are: linearity/nonlinear, section, replayability, metagame/metaknowledge, railroading, loop, mechanic/system, what's-it-called the five fingered bookmark?, gender neutrality, exploit, broken, red herring, anti cheat, someone wrote in the book!, which door/false choice, the one true path, economic, duplicate paragraph, padded out, bookkeeping, maze, number of endings, number puzzle, and death paragraph.

    Interestingly, many of those terms mean something different when applied to gamebooks as opposed to tabletop RPGs or video games. For instance, red herring is often an item or path, and economic means fewer sections. Some terms, like death paragraph, are unique to gamebooks.

    So I'd say it's good to know how terms have different applications in each medium of game.

    1. I agree. You should definitely start a glossary/dictionary.

      Would be sensible to initially borrow from game and literary definitions as they have matured over a long period and already have some equity (feedback loop, protagonist, etc...)

      Nexy, see where the conflicts/duplication arise and make a call (or ask the community) - as well as adding the gamebook specific terms.

      Maybe a wiki page would be good so we could all help!?

  2. For example, does one play or read a gamebook?

    That could depend on your approach. For gamebooks with rulesets (as opposed to the CYOA type), it might be argued that automatically claiming victory in every fight and success on every attribute check, and thus only being able to fail by making (or having made) wrong decisions constitutes 'reading' it, whereas 'playing' it requires some degree of adherence to the rules.