Prehistory (1976-1981): The adventure gamebook as a solitaire role-playing experience begins with Buffalo Castle in 1976, which kicks off a long line of Tunnels & Trolls solo scenarios. This is followed by The Cave of Time in 1979, which is the first Choose Your Adventure book.
The Golden Age (1982-1987): 1982 sees the publication of the first Fighting Fantasy gamebook The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, as well as Ian Livingstone's far lesser known Eye of the Dragon from his Dicing With Dragons guide to role-playing games. The latter is forgotten, the former provokes an avalanche. Over the course of the next five years it would seem that every paperback children's book publisher would attempt to emulate the success of Fighting Fantasy. Joe Dever starts the Lone Wolf series in 1984 with Flight From The Dark. Other notable series at this time include Sagas of the Demonspawn, Skyfall, Falcon, Golden Dragon, Cretan Chronicles, Sagard the Barbarian, and Sword Quest, though few of these series last beyond four books. Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson use the gamebook format to smuggle their Dragon Warriors role-playing system into bookstores in 1985 (Morris & Johnson, 2008, p. 11). This is set in the world of Legend which features in a subsequent series Blood Sword that begins in 1987 with The Battlepits of Krarth. 1987 also marks the end of two of the longer gamebook series, Way of the Tiger and Grailquest, though Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf are still going strong.
The Silver Age (1988-1995): Several innovative new gamebook series are published during this time, including Virtual Reality Adventures, Fabled Lands, and the continuation of the Blood Sword saga. Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy both keep churning out the titles, but the latter series - the grandaddy of them all - finally succumbs and perishes after Curse of the Mummy (the 59th title!) and Ian Livingstone's Adventures of Goldhawk spinoff series are published in 1995.
The Bronze Age (1996-1998): The slow death of gamebooks. Fabled Lands stops in 1996 with Lords of the Rising Sun, which unfortunately is only the sixth book in a proposed 12 book sequence, leaving the non-linear series woefully incomplete. Dave Morris publishes the Chronicles of the Magi, a trilogy of children's fantasy books based on the Blood Sword series in 1997, and Lone Wolf continues with a handful of titles, finishing with its 28th and last book The Hunger of Sejanoz, in 1998.
The Dark Age (1999-2004): There is little published material for gamebook fans, but the rise of the internet sees a flourishing community of gamebook fans and amateur fan-written adventures develop. Some high points include Kim Newman's Life's Lottery interactive novel in 1999, and in 2000 former Fighting Fantasy author Paul Mason republishes Heart of Ice under his Panurgic Publishing label. Also in 1999 Project Aon was formed to keep the Lone Wolf flame alive by republishing that series in a free downloadable electronic format. In 2002 Wizard Books begin reissuing Fighting Fantasy books, but for the first two years were content to merely republish existing titles.
The New Age (2005-?): Ian Livingstone's Eye of the Dragon is published in 2005 and marks the first real new Fighting Fantasy title in ten years (although it is based on his original adventure from 1982), leading to more new books in this series, including Bloodbones, Howl of the Werewolf, Stormslayer, and Night of the Necromancer; all of which are by Jonathan Green. Lone Wolf begins republishing expanded editions in 2007, and Fabled Lands is reissued in 2010, with a promise of completing the series if sales go well. Importantly, Fighting Fantasy and Fabled Lands are ported to digital formats on mobile devices, which also encompasses digital-only gamebooks such as Tin Man Games' Gamebook Adventure series. What does the future hold for gamebooks?
Any thoughts? Do YOU :-) agree or disagree with this assessment?
Katz, D. (n.d.). Gamebook Database: Item List (sorted by date of publication). Accessed from http://www.gamebooks.org/list_years.php
Maliszewski, J. (2009, January 11). The Ages of D&D. Message posted to http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2009/01/ages-of-d.html
Morris, D. & Johnson, O. (2008). Dragon Warriors: The Classic British Role-Playing Game. London: Magnum Opus Press