As you know, people like stories–reading stories, telling stories, freeze-drying stories and mounting them on a zebra pelt. Some even laugh and get emotional while doing so. But where do stories come from? Imagine a box. A box that allows you to choose the direction of a story. An internet connected box called The Choosatron. I’ll wait to let you pop your eyeballs back in the appropriate socket. The Choosatron is a choose your own story adveturerer-er device and the brainchild of Jerry Belich. He has a Kickstarter campaign we backed immediately upon hearing of it. So now it’s your turn. Imagine you’re in a forest. The elf mage has taken your bobsled. What do you do?
1. Leave and go to some lame tech site.
2. Eat a sandwich and stare at a tree.
3. Scroll down to find the meaning of true adventure.
Adventure in a box
Here’s how the Choosatron works. A tiny, trained squirrel within the box is jabbed repeatedly by pins when you make a choice aaaaand… that is not true at all. Squirrels, as you know, hate small spaces. The Choosatron is a easily assembled kit that combines wifi-enabled tech and interactive gameplay. It’s like Zork without the 8″ floppy discs and all the typing. The software and hardware is completely open, so you can write your stories as well. (You can even gets started now with the handy writing guide Jerry has on the Choosatron site.) Instead of a sleek, black screen, you get the complete analog experience of seeing your choices thermo-printed out on a paper roll.
As you play, you make decisions that affect the outcome of the story, and your journey is printed on a keepsake paper scroll. You’ll be able to write your own stories as well, using open and free software. Download new stories over Wi-Fi, and share your own stories with other over the internet. Save your unique stories right on the provided SD card.
Another unique aspect? It uses the Spark Core, an Arduino-compatible Wi-Fi development kit successfully funded on Kickstarter. It’s a mini-Wi-Fi enabled board you can build devices around. Devices like a robot, a security system or a choose your own adventure device. As Zach Supalla, CEO of Spark told us, “We built the Spark Core because we realized how difficult it can be to create products with Wi-Fi connections, and we wanted to simplify that problem for others–not just for hobbyist projects, but for consumer products as well.”
For Jerry, the idea all started on a journey through his brain, reminiscing two joys of his childhood–stories and arcade games. “Initially, the inspiration was my love of Choose Your Own Adventure stories (obviously), and specifically, the game design behind ‘quarter-eater’ style arcade games from when I was a kid. Like X-Men/TMNT. The first prototypes all have coin acceptors–two quarters to play, one to continue (you could tell it how many choices to jump back, so you could brute force your way through a game to a ‘good’ ending). The idea for a CYOA arcade machine popped into my head as I had been thinking about those two areas of my childhood.”
Armed with a coin-operated prototype, he introduced the contraption to impressionable old people and their young. “I had gotten to know the folks at Paper Darts (online literary magazine, amazing work), and they invited me to a release event. From there, the youth coordinator at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis came up to me and said she wanted me to teach a class. At that point I realized that not only did people really like the project, but there was a lot of potential for it to be a great tool for exposing kids to both technology, creative arts, and even better a mix of the two.”
Exposing kids the a mix of tech and art–exactly what they need in their sugar-enriched diets. Enough jibber-jabber though! The campaign is running until August 30th, so you only have a month left to consider your options. The early bird special for the Choosatron kit is all gone (WE SNAGGED THE LAST ONE), but you can pick up the story-telling adventuring device for $139 with other options for a clear case version and being part of a story. Plus, there are other tiers including beta kits, Choosatron parties and even a coin accepting arcade version. Choose wisely and Godspeed.