Choose Your Own Adventure — ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’

I love Black Mirror. Watching at the different sci-fi dystopias of the enhanced humanity, some quite futuristic, and others just exaggerating a little bit what we already are. So, on these Christmas holidays, when I saw the thumbnail on my Netflix screen, I clicked immediately, not really knowing what I was getting into. It took me a couple of seconds to get that this was an interactive movie, but I hit the button soon enough. “yes, I understand”

If you ever had a choose-your-own-adventure book, then this is the same thing, but in a movie.

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Although this format may play a better trick on kid´s titles, in a mix of educational and entertaining purposes, still going on God-mode and being able to take control over the characters is exciting. But leaving philosophical thoughts behind there are two aspects I would like to comment on about Bandersnatch:

Technology: This new release required some tweaks on the streaming platform: The service’s apps typically pre-cache some content to make for a smooth streaming experience even when a viewer’s internet connection temporarily slows down. For “Bandersnatch,” the app now has to pre-cache two possible paths — something that older versions of the Netflix app aren’t able to do. This nonlinear format also challenged the fast-forward breaks, so Netflix had to develop simplified playback controls.

Storytelling: Bandersnatch interactive storytelling can feel a bit gimmicky. Some endings are abrupt, or out of context, so, all in all, it tastes like an unresolved story. The content ends up being a good format to showcase the technology, and not the other way around. In fact, the creators were approached by Netflix´s idea of using the technology before they created the story. But let´s admit also that creating a story that makes sense for 5 possible endings and multiple permutations is not a minor challenge.

In my view, this new release from Netflix is a hit because it successfully combines:

  • Bandersnatch story, that creates a series of connected loops that incorporate the spectator, creating just enough confusion to get you intrigued for a while.
  • Black Mirror, that is already entitled to screw with their audience’s minds
  • Solid technology. A fluid streaming experience that doesn’t interfere in the interactive game
  • The First Netflix’s adult interactive story. Not other to compare with. (right?)
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I am intrigued to see where Netflix and other streaming platforms take this format, wishing that they go deeper on the content and not that much on the technology, while also curious about what this interactive medium can bring in terms of audience research and commercial purposes.

So, if you haven´t watched Bandersnatch yet, I recommend you get on with it, and then please tell me: did you jump?

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working on the augmented humanity project

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