Why Do We Love ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ Stories?

From the I Ching to an Upcoming Netflix Romcom, Interactive Fiction Dares Us to Decide What Happens Next

The new Netflix original horror movie Choose or Die turns on an interactive computer game called “CURS>R,” which resembles a classic ’80s adventure program in which a user inputs text to move the story forward. Naturally, there’s a twist—the protagonist discovers that every choice in the game, no matter how small, will determine whether she and the people around her stay alive.

While the movie itself isn’t interactive (something that could have helped rehabilitate the plot), the release reflects Netflix’s growing interest in choose-your-own-adventure-style programming. Since the debut of Black Mirror: …

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importance-earnest | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Importance of Watching Other People Being Earnest

From Abbott Elementary to TikTok, Pop Culture Is Having a Rosy Moment with Victorian Roots

There’s an old adage that goes something like, “Be always sincere but never earnest.” The idea being that while sincerity engenders honesty, earnestness is hampered by its strength of conviction.

Maybe …

Before Wordle, There Was Cross-Word Mania | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Before Wordle, There Was Cross-Word Mania

In the 1920s, Puzzling Inspired a Broadway Musical, Built a Publishing House, and Counted the Queen of England as a Fan

In its short lifespan, Wordle has already made the tricky transition from cult phenomenon to established part of our daily lives.

Created by a software engineer in Brooklyn for his partner …

Will the Real Lucille Ball Please Stand Up? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Will the Real Lucille Ball Please Stand Up?

I Love Lucy Is Having a Moment, But We’re Still Not Ready to See Its Star and Creator Clearly

“Scary Lucy,” the much-maligned statue of comedy legend Lucille Ball in her hometown of Celoron, New York, was just a brief blip on the cultural radar when a fan campaign …

Is Euphoria a TV Show or an Aesthetic?

From the HBO Series to Cottagecore, the Blending of Surface and Serious May Serve Modern Life

In the comment section of a one-hour loop of the Labrinth song “Forever” that’s already hit upward of a million views on YouTube, one person wrote: “This song makes me …

Are We All Narcissists?

A Valentine’s Day Reflection on Ovid, Freud, and #WestElmCaleb

Tens of millions of people, myself included, watched last month as multiple strangers pieced together in real time the fact that they’d all been led on and ghosted by the …