When I was told by fellow poet and She Grrrowls team member Ibizo Lami that there was a ‘choose your own adventure’ (CYOA) game-cum-story starring Beyoncé on Twitter, I felt compelled to write about it.
If you haven’t heard of it already (currently at 98.2K retweets and 256.7 likes), it works by imagining you are Beyoncé’s assistant for the day. Your goal: don’t get fired. Complete with photographs and gifs, each choice you make leads to another thread. Depending on your choice, you either face the termination of your contract or you are allowed to continue the game.
For Beyoncé’s breakfast, I select the ‘5 star breakfast’, which shows a luxurious fry-up, with fruit, bread, cheese and even a small bouquet of flowers. I get fired immediately with the message: ‘She yells at you “are you trying to make me fat like you?!”, then has her team of lawyers send you a termination letter.’
Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories were originally a type of book written in second person where the story leads you across various pages in the book, depending on the choices you make, each resulting in a completely different story. The first gamebooks of this style were made in the late 1970s, starting with Tenopia City written by Edward Packard, making the gamebook a genre of its own.
However, the earlier records of this type of work with branching narratives appears to be the 1930s’ romantic novel Consider the Consequences by Doris Webster and Mary Alden. This and other such books were designed to be a fun form of entertainment for gatherings of friends, read aloud and played together.
It bridges the gap between the concept of a gamebook and a video game, with its narrative structure and interactivity.
Whilst this form declined in popularity in the 1990s, it seems that the gamebook is making waves again on mobile and eBook platforms. Following in the vein of the recent Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, it’s amazing to see the creativity that is possible on platforms such as Twitter, injecting some fun and interactivity beyond adding comments on threads, and it strikes me as an innovative use of social media. It bridges the gap between the concept of a gamebook and a video game, with its narrative structure and interactivity.
It is notable that the CYOA format has broken into the mainstream in the late 00s when it comes to the world of gaming. For example, in 2008 Andrew Hussie’s audience-influenced webcomic ‘Homestuck’ followed this structure, written in second person. Interwoven with flash games, gifs, as well as multiple animations, it had lost this element once the plot became too complex, but it remains to have been a great influence on similar narratives in the early 2010s. Narrative-based games from Telltale, Quantic Dream, and others also have emphasised how choice-making can drive the narrative of the game. Finally, in games such as Toby Fox’s ‘Undertale’ and Lucas Pope’s ‘Papers, Please’, it is demonstrated how hundreds of small choices can impact the way the game turns out, similar to a butterfly effect.
Similarly to ‘Don’t Get Fired’, Siobhan Thompson had previously put a similar thread out there using Twitter polls. Unfortunately, due to how these polls work, the game is time-limited and you can no longer make a selection. Apple has also since attempted to adopt the format to promote Apple TV and help users find a film to watch. However, it misses the mark as it is too simplistic and not as well written. Landon Rivera has also since created two more threads, though these haven’t been as popular as the original thread.
What I am even more impressed by in the case of its creator Landon Rivera’s Beyoncé CYOA (@CORNYASSBITCH), is that the correct answers in the thread aren’t just guesses, but based on facts and information he knew from being part of the Bey Hive. Initially made for other massive Beyoncé fans, arguably the bigger fan you are, the better you will do.
[…]no one is good enough to work for Beyoncé.
On my second attempt, after realising the breakfast is what I would choose for myself rather than for Beyoncé, I last right up until the end before I make the bad move for her to go with her team to her presidential suite, just after I had helped her get safely to the hotel unseen. With each successful selection, I find myself feeling nervous, anticipating my dismissal and relieved to find that I’m still in the job.
However, when I selected the alternative option out of curiosity for how long the game lasted, spoiler alert: it leads to being fired as well. Hence a secondary albeit hyperbolic point to the game highlighted by Vice – no one is good enough to work for Beyoncé.
The rise of CYOA video games, the hype surrounding the release of Bandersnatch, and in turn the popularity of the Beyoncé Twitter thread illustrates how the CYOA concept has become more than a niche interest, and long made its way into the mainstream of how we consume such entertainment.
Featured image : Bigotes de Gato(CC BY-SA 2.0)
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