Is Netflix’s New Interactive Film a Game Changer?
It would be a pretty big deal if a streaming service took a giant creative leap and offered a new style of content. Netflix or Amazon could cause a massive pop culture wave by announcing that an installment of one of their most popular programs would play out like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. They would be insane to keep the announcement under wraps until the very last minute. Or would they?
Today Netflix confirmed that their latest Black Mirror episode is also their first major attempt at choose-your-own-adventure-style content. Netflix quietly delivering Black Mirror: Bandersnatch to viewers without a huge buildup is so Black Mirror. Here’s what Netflix has to say:
BEWARE and WARNING!
The Netflix Interactive Film you’re about to experience is different from other Netflix Interactive Films… namely because it’s the only one.
In this 80s-set, sometimes morally-compromising adventure, you alone are in charge of what happens next. The journeys you go on are a direct result of your decisions.
There are choices to be made, challenges to overcome, dangers to encounter and, as always in life (and Black Mirror), consequences to be had. Choosing wisely could lead to triumph while taking the wrong path could end in disaster — but who’s to say what’s “right” and “wrong,” anyway? And fret not because once one experience comes to a close, you can — and should! — go back and make a new choice, alter the path of your story and maybe even change its outcome.
I haven’t had time to watch Black Mirror: Bandersnatch just yet, but I’m looking forward to diving in. While this type of move isn’t a big gamble on Netflix’s part, it is a huge creative swing. In the social media age, people love to feel like they’re a part of the story. People connect with their favourite stories and storytellers by expressing their feelings on Twitter, supporting viral Instagram posts, and speaking with showrunners on reddit threads. Bandersnatch lets viewers change the episode’s narrative, and I’m curious to see how people discuss their unique experiences.
Television and video game choose-your-own-adventure experiences aren’t new. Earlier this year, HBO aired a new series from Steven Soderbergh called Mosaic. Before the murder mystery series launched, viewers could download a Mosaic app that unlocked a unique viewing experience. People could choose which characters to follow around as the show’s story progressed. Switching perspectives didn’t affect the narrative but it allowed people to experience the program their own way.
Video games have successfully applied the choose-your-own-adventure template for years. Telltale Games has released a fleet of licenced content, including Game of Thrones, Batman, and The Walking Dead, and they each provide incredible interactive experiences. These titles are offered in seasons that get broken up into several episodes – usually lasting two hours each. They don’t require the Olympian-calibre reflexes needed for games like Fortnite and Call of Duty, which makes them accessible to non-gamers. These titles let gamers take their time to soak up the story and hang out with their favourite characters while making wrenching choices.
You can be sure that Black Mirror: Bandersnatch won’t be the last Netflix title to apply this new storytelling method. The real question is where will this new content model appear next? I hope Netflix lets us choose the life choices of those poor schmucks on the bake-off series Nailed It! I want to select an option where contestants walk off the set instead of disgracing themselves with confectionary abominations. Those jabronis turn out sorry-ass cookies and cakes that look more like Mickey Rourke than Mickey Mouse.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is now available to stream on Netflix.