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Life and death in the second person: Identification, empathy and antipathy in the gamebook

Wake, PF (2016) Life and death in the second person: Identification, empathy and antipathy in the gamebook. Narrative, 24. ISSN 1063-3685

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Abstract

This essay argues that the second-person address of the interactive gamebook generates a mode of identification between reader (player) and character that functions not through immersion or presence but through an estranging logic that arises from the particular affordances of the print form. It begins by situating the gamebook, an influential but short-lived genre that enjoyed its heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s, in relation to other forms of second-person narrative as well as Interactive Fiction and video games, before turning to a consideration of the points at which the forms diverge. Taking Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (1982) as its example, the essay then examines the ways in which the gamebook’s highly-demanding print form undermines notions of transparency, arguing that identification with the gamebook you is specific to, and reliant upon, the material properties of the print text.

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