Back in the 90s, a scant few things ruled the roost of childhood obsession, and your options were either to get onboard or get out of the way, loser.
Dinosaurs? King. Jurassic Park brought these fearsome beasts back into popular culture, and coincidentally, was the sole reason why I became a Toronto Raptors fan all those years ago.
Slap bands? King. You’d whip that neon plastic on your wrist in a flash, or if you were more experimental/psychopathic, you could extract the metallic interior to use as a flimsy weapon against your schoolyard brethren.
Freezing Canadian two dollar coins so that you could pop the middle out? King shit. It was a definite waste of two dollars, but our curiosity was satisfied all the same.
The tales of Robert Lawrence Stine, however, were as close as many of us got to a productive hobby. It encouraged children to read, dammit, and say what you will about the educational value of these books — ain’t nobody gonna make me put down a page turning thrill ride about an evil kitchen sponge.
Compared to my sister, who would buy nearly every entry in the mainline series, my collection was actually quite modest. There wasn’t a lot of sense in us having two copies of every book, as if they were topical statements on modern society that must be read within the first month of publishing.
Instead, my preferred modus operandi was to amass a veritable paperback army of the sister series, Give Yourself Goosebumps. These spinoff stories took the form of game books, where your occasional input on how to proceed would branch the journey in completely different directions.
Your goal, obviously, was to end up on one of the few good endings, but the odds were far more likely that you would be murdered in some brutal manner. When I played a few of them for my long-running toy blog, I found myself forcibly sewn together with a pair of classmates, executed in a futuristic killing device, and condemned to read bedtime stories to hungry monsters.
None of the above is hyperbole, by the way. R.L. Stine was a weird motherfucker.
Though the above results stemmed from honest, Christian playthroughs, this was never the case when I was a kid. For younger, angrier Anthony, success was the only option, and each new fork in the road had to be bookmarked, should it become apparent that a setback was imminent.
An organised (or even remotely intelligent) child would use actual bookmarks for such an endeavour, even a simple facsimile like a ruler or a pencil. Not I, however, who elected to keep my fingers clutched on the pages of import, ready and primed to flee back to safety in case of danger.
Sometimes, three or more paths would be available, and other times, a decision would be made shortly after the previous one. One by one, my digits would disappear into the pages, until I would be forced to pin the book to the floor, hands groping each side like a fledgling ocarina student trying to play Zelda’s Lullaby for the first time.
And for what, exactly? When you reach the final destination, your character’s fate is the fruit borne of the strength of your convictions. In this scenario, it was actually a lack of conviction that would necessitate such a style of gameplay, rendering whatever reward I had collected arbitrary and meaningless.
Was I playing it safe, or undermining the purpose for playing at all? I have only the vaguest recollection of soaking in the stories that were taking place in these spooky adventures, more intent on determining whether or not to venture down a suspicious corridor.
That being said, Stine did have a somewhat skewed sense of decision making. After falling off a bridge in the first book, Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, trying to grab hold of the ledge will lead to your swift demise, while flapping your arms like a chicken to fly to safety inexplicably works to perfection.
Other times, you would be doomed by factors beyond your control, as is the case in one possible ending in Danger Time. If your zodiac is a water sign, you are deemed worthy by a murderous fish. Else, it will devour you without a second thought.
Your only recourse is to storm out into the living room and slap your parents in the face for the miserable timing of your birth. Heathens!!
Perhaps these factors would contribute to my risk averse nature in adulthood, such as was alluded to in yesterday’s article about consequences in Triangle Strategy. I need not link it, because of course you already read it, and shared it to your friends and distant acquaintances and even a few enemies in a gesture of good will.
That’s why it’s garnered a muscular *checks stats* five views so far. I suppose you are at fault for not having enough friends.
Whatever the impact Goosebumps would have on the miserable parody that is my life, I can at least assume, to a reasonable degree, that it played a role in cultivating the verbosity that I would develop into my adolescence and beyond. I likes dem words.
It wasn’t exactly Tolstoy, but you know what? Given the choice, I think I would opt for R.L. Stine’s Give Yourself Goosebumps entry about a scary shopping mall anyway. Late night deals are best paired with late night squeals.
…Also, here’s the Triangle Strategy link. God knows I’m not going to miss out on a potential click in favour of a gag, I’m a shameless whore and proud of it.