For my research specialization I focused specifically on the endings of gamebooks. After surveying the works that our research team had already encoded it became clear that the endings differed the most across different genres. I found that each genre had its own unique criteria for what endings typically entail, and along with this that whether an ending is seen as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depends on the genre of work in which it is found. I also identified what an ending must involve to be considered “good” or “bad”, which might be understood differently either from the character’s point of view or from the reader’s point of view.
I grouped the works analyzed here into four genres: Adventure, Horror, Romance, and Science Fiction. Works that in the adventure genre often contain a storyline full of physical action or events that are dangerous to the main character, and typically do not take place in the characters’ normal life. Science fiction works often follow along with a similar theme of adventure books, but include elements of futuristic science or technology and commonly extraterrestrial life. Gamebooks under the horror genre are typically meant to scare or frighten its readers, with its storylines inducing feelings of horror or fear. Romance genre gamebooks characteristically involve relational or emotional love, and primarily focus on romantic love between two characters. The endings of gamebooks can be deemed good or bad by a reader based on their specific genre. For instance, in gamebook 14-14 DYOR: Holiday Romance, which is in the romance genre, the main character kissing her love interest Jonathan in one ending (pg. 76) is considered “good”, whereas the ending when her love interest leaves the party early and she misses her chance is “bad” (pg. 94). If the main character of this book had instead gone on an adventure and saved a galactic empire, the ending, while “good”, would seem out of place. These endings can be classified as such because of the specific genre they appear in.
In choosing which samples of gamebooks to examine, I found that there were an overwhelming number of books for each genre. To narrow down my choices, I took three to four books from each genre, each from a different series. In this way I could measure the differences across genres without introducing bias from specific series that had large numbers of works. After choosing a specific book from a genre and series, I encoded the number of endings and documented what occured in each one. From there, I eventually was able to compare the common types of endings from genre to genre, see how they differed or were similar, and observe what made the endings within each genre unique to their own group.
On average, the gamebooks I analyzed were anywhere from 100-150 pages long. The number of endings from the works could range from as few as six to as many as forty separate conclusions. There weren not many striking variations among the structure of each genres form, however I did find that romance themed gamebooks on average had a lower number of endings compared to other genres. With that, romance genre works had graphs that were typically longer and more linear, with fewer branching structures.
Above is a graph of the action-packed 04-37 CYOA: The Abominable Snowman. This is a typical graph of an adventure genre gamebook. Which classically have more endings, but also lead the reader to a much quicker conclusion at times. These works have a more branch like structure and give the reader more choices along the way. The structure of action genre graphs are often very similar to those of science fiction or horror genre gamebooks.
Above is an example of romance genre work 14-16 MYDCT: Winning at Love. This graph has longer individual story lines, making for a more linear graph. While it has fewer endings, it has a more set path and less variation.
After concluding my research and analysis of these works, I found prominent differences within the common endings of each genre. Adventure and science fiction themed gamebooks endings often were ranked by more aspects of physical safety. The measurement of the success or fulfillment of the reader when reaching the ending was focused around whether the main character was physically safe from harm or not (e.g. eaten by an alligator or getting rescued). They were also based off the main characters’ success once they had reached the ending (e.g. getting home safely or saving the world). Within the horror genre, endings almost always only had to do with physical safety. In fact, within the horror genre there were an overwhelming number of bad endings where the character is physically harmed and very few endings that could be viewed as good or a success. Most “good” endings within the horror genre typically ended with the main character waking up and realizing it was a dream, even across different series. This is of course fitting for the horror genre, but I was surprised to find there weren’t many stories that contained endings where the villain or threat was defeated. The genre that differed the most from others was the romance gamebooks. These works endings were entirely based on the status of relationships with friends or romantic interests. They often were ranked on how good an ending was based off the main characters’ emotional security and happiness (e.g. Brad kisses you or you end up fighting with a friend). Almost no endings ever effected the main characters’ physical well-being.
The last notable element I found while examining endings is that it is often difficult to define what is a “good” or “bad” ending. While some endings are perhaps good for the character, they are bad or fall short of what a reader would want or expect as a good ending. This is exemplified in 14-21 The Saturday Night Bash were two endings that could be classified as good are leaving a party to have a sleepover and feeling content versus kissing your high school crush. Both are emotionally satisfying for the character, but a reader could find themselves disappointed when a romance novel ends without any romance. This is also shown in action genre works. Two “good” endings in 04-37 The Abominable Snowman are going home safely to your family, or getting a picture of a Yeti and becoming famous and honored with awards. While both endings are satisfactory to the character’s well-being, the latter may be more satisfying for a reader.