Black Mirror: Bandersnatch … Is Netflix onto something? The Future of Storytelling

Early morning yesterday, we got a late gift from Netflix, a surprise Black Mirror episode! Not just any episode… an interactive one, a choose-your-own-adventure-style movie!

Bandersnatch follows Stefan Butler played by Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk). The story is about Stefan, an 80’s game developer that slowly starts to think that he is part of a mind control conspiracy.

Interaction comes when viewers are invited to make seemingly trivial choices that affect the main character’s story, but also his mental state as well. Indeed, there is a conspiracy in the story, the one that you are involved in, the one that makes the main character do things, without him knowing why he makes these choices…

It starts with simple choices, like what he eats for breakfast, or the music he is going to listen to. As the story unfolds, you are faced with more difficult choices, like TO KILL or NOT TO KILL. The beauty of this story is that not only you get to understand what an interactive movie can be, you are also involved in the conspiracy, and can actually have different endings depending on how “sick & twisted” you are!  I’ve counted 9 different “endings” … But even those endings have different variations.

Interactive movies … is this the Future of Storytelling?

I’m not quite sure it will be the next big thing… Let’s not forget, we have seen this in the past, with books. Which leads me to a question, why did those books fail? Was it because it was in a book format? Was it because we had to read? Or was it because the answer to the choice was right there on the next few pages? Technology now enables us to tell an interactive story without having the “cheat” option right there on the next few pages…

One thing I’m sure of, is that we will definitely use interaction in Virtual & Augmented Reality Storytelling. For immersive storytellers this is certainly a good technique to look at. Storytelling with 6 DoF (degrees of freedom) is not an easy task. We are bridging the gaming and the movie world. The ability to tell an interactive story by keeping the narrative true to the story is the real challenge.

In Bandersnatch, Stephen finds out how he can make the best interactive (multi-choice) game … By simplifying and creating his own ending, the real ending and by giving the illusion of choice to the viewer, just like the creators of Bandersnatch did. Beautiful. Well done!

BUT… Yes… Well… I have to admit … I don’t get why we can’t watch it with Apple TV or Google Chromecast … or on any mobile device … Well we can , BUT without the interaction.

Extended Stories

Done… but not quite. Having a bigger (deeper) story is what drives some viewers. We have seen Reddit detectives digging up every easter egg or hidden content possible,  like with Sam Esmail’s  Mr. Robot, the story is continued online on different mediums. Bandersnatch has the same feel and expands on the website, with posters and even a game.  It’s well done and has a genuine feel to it. Visit the game publishers website: Tuckersoft. We discovered some cool easter eggs! I enjoy seeing creators thinking this way.

 

Azad Abbasi [CEO @ Genius] @geniusazad