I stated before that books are a passive media. When you think of how we typically interact with books, it requires a different set of skills and abilities than what skills we use when we play an instrument or engage with a board game. Books are a passive media primarily, but there are exceptions!
Marshall McLuchlan said that the medium (the singular of media) is the message. His insight was revolutionary at the time, and I believe I found a new demonstration of this insight. It occurred when I applied the Playstates model as a lens to evaluate how we interact with media, and in this post’s focus, books in particular.
The five different Playstates are found in the medium of books. Below I have listed examples of all five and this has forced me to rethink my stated position that books are inherently passive. It is quite possible that there is a continuum of activeness to passivity found in all media. I will need to take some time to explore that further!
The Play of Toys and Playgrounds which encompasses free-form engagement, temporary rules, and exploration can be found in Whiteman Press-Out books. Coming in the form of a book, the pieces are pressed out, given perforations that allows them the ability to stand and then take on a the identity of a toy set. I personally enjoyed these books in the mid-1970s.
The Play of taking on roles which defined a new perspective, forcing us to make certain choices can be found in two segments: Choose Your Own Adventures (CYOA) and Tabletop Role Playing Games. In CYOA, you read a story in the first person and make pre-set choices that narrated an outcome. It might not have been very dynamic, it was effective in its simplicity. In RPGs, this Playstate’s namesake, dynamic relationships are created between players who are guided by a ruleset that helps determine gameplay. I too was exposed to these Role-play Playstate books in the late-1970s to early 1980s. RPGs made a huge imprint on me.
Puzzles contained within a book. A book you don’t read, but solve. Puzzle books in their variety represent the Play of matching and solving. The most popular options found range from Crossword to Find A Word to Soduko. I had minimal interest in Puzzle books; the most enthused I got was playing the Be an Interplanetary Spy which used Comic-book illustrations and Puzzles as its challenge points.
The Play of Measurement is the defining trait of Games and Fighting Fantasy was a series of gamebooks that took one part of the CYOA (choosing entries) and imbuing it with a RPG character and combat resolution convention as its measurables. Dice were used to help determine outcomes. My discovery of Final Fantasy created a magical experience for me. It became possible to play a D&D kind of experience without needing to collect a bunch of people together. Final Fantasy and other Gamebooks became a refuge for people craving adventure and combat resolution.
Sports is the play of competition. By using measurables found in games as the basis of the competition it becomes possible to determine a winner and loser. The idea of books being use to convey tactics and winnable conditions was pretty novel and found its expression in two distinct types of Gamebooks: 1 on 1 Adventure Gamebook & The Lost World Fantasy Combat Books