The Enchanting World of Choose Your Own Adventure: From Books to Arcades

A look into "Choose Your Own Adventure" experiences and how they influenced Arcade's product development.

Last week, we introduced Arcade Adventure, a suite of tools designed for seamless, personalized, and beautiful storytelling at scale.

This initiative was born out of numerous conversations with our customers and lengthy Slack threads where we challenged ourselves to imagine what personalization at scale would mean for Arcade.

One of the primary features we launched was "Choose Your Own Adventure," which allows you to create different paths and options for your audience based on their interest.

As we built the product, I questioned why we were introducing Choose Your Adventure in the first place. I kept returning to the word "storytelling" and felt inspired to learn more about its meaning and how to incorporate it into product development.

Here is what I learned.

The Beginning of a Revolutionary Concept.

My journey into the history of this concept began with this compelling read from The New Yorker.

The concept of Choose Your Own Adventure (CYA) books was pioneered in the late 1970s by Edward Packard, who was, ironically, a terrible storyteller.* As a single father, he spent every bedtime with his daughters making up stories and, at critical moments, would ask them what they thought the recurring character, Pete, should do next. When the girls gave different answers, he'd play out both possibilities.

Packard remembers this innovation as a function of necessity—"If I'd been a better storyteller, we never would have gotten the form. . . . I'd get stumped and ask the girls what should happen next."

The lawyer-turned-author transformed modern storytelling by allowing readers to influence the plotline. To put his influence into context, the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series is the fourth-best-selling children's series ever.

*Note: he didn't invent the concept but made it famous. The first book with CYA was I-ching from the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Page from Sonic The Hedgehog Book with different adventure path options.

Unleashing my imagination.

When I was a kid, I was gifted a book called Sonic the Hedgehog, which was my first and only experience of a Choose Your Adventure book. I remember how fascinating it was. I learned to bookmark the last page I had read before flipping over to the other (with my pinky finger stuck between pages).

Yes, I was a cheater… 🫣.

Looking back, what I found impressive was that the choices I made in the game were always the ones that I felt most connected to. By playing, I became the protagonist and hero of my own story.

This didn't stop me from exploring the other possible endings. The game made me more curious about the outcomes of less or more risky decisions. It allowed me to experience being someone else and gave me the power to take control of my destiny.

Path A, B, or C?

The concept is still as important as in the 1970s; it's just evolving with technology.

As I delved deeper into the adventure rabbit hole, I came across an article from The Atlantic dating back to 2012 titled "Choosing Our Own Adventures, Then and Now." It was fascinating to learn that our quest for happiness (and endings!) is not a solitary one.

The article mentioned Jonah Peretti, the CEO of Buzzfeed, who is known for his ability to make content go viral on social media. Interestingly, Peretti was the first to attempt to recreate the CYA experience using Twitter threads in 2010. He discussed it in this interview.

So, naturally, I had to recreate it using an Arcade and our latest Arcade Adventure features:

If that wasn't enough, the drama continues! There are articles about how to do a CYA on X (formerly Twitter) and a whole article on Fast Company. One on Beyonce went viral in 2019, which led to a user creating a master flowchart and Apple TV creating their version a few days later.

In any case, everyone has an inner child that loves to play games. And there is no better game than allowing them to choose their path. People love to play the protagonist, so why not give them what they want?

Embracing Personalization with Arcade.

Personalization is not a new concept. Companies have done this for years through surveys, onboarding questions, high-touch sales demos, etc. However, requests for more campaign personalization are often met with complexity and added resources. What makes Arcade unique is that we enable low-touch, audience-driven personalization at scale.

The growing interactive demo category changes how your audience considers and engages with your product. A recent study on B2B customers found that:

53% of buyers would prefer to buy without any sales interaction, but 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase with personalized experiences.

By putting your product into their hands (i.e., Chrome browsers 😅 ) via an interactive demo, you can satisfy both. If buyers don't have diametric motivations, they mostly look for instant gratification in the digital age. ✨

Bringing "Choose Your Own Adventure" to life.

We recently launched Arcade Adventure, a suite of tools designed for seamless, personalized, and beautiful storytelling at scale. The Arcade teams' curiosity for "Choose Your Own Adventure" experiences catalyzed how we thought about building these features.

We've also seen customers, like Shipyard, creating their own adventures for prospects.

The only difference between CYA books and Arcades is that who your protagonists are can still be revealed to you through their actions via Insights. I can't wait to see how this area continues to evolve.

In other news, Jonah Peretti says AI will "Replace the Majority of Static Content," so I think we're in a good place 😉. Here's a nugget from that article:

"Using the generative power of large language model AI, we can create hyper-personalized content at scale... that is far more engaging to our audience than static media, from chatbots to games to personalized articles and then we can feed the engagement data from that content back into the data pipeline."

Alright, it's too late to turn back now (pinky would not help in this case). So, let your inner child be free as you create your Arcade Adventure and discover more about your audience's interests.

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