Black Mirror returns to Netflix on June 5 with three brand new episodes examining the intersection and relationship between culture, media and technology. The anthology series, which was picked up after two successful seasons produced in the UK, remains one of Netflix’s most popular and controversial shows, the most recent of which was sparked by an interactive episode called “Bandersnatch”.
The controversy mostly came from members inside interactive fiction communities who felt the show did the sub-genre a disservice by relying on an antiquated, binary kind of interactivity (simple choose your path) when IF has become something much more robust.
Another reason people were miffed by Bandersnatch is that, many of the choices felt incidental to the trajectory of the story. What kind of breakfast cereal you eat or what album you choose for the main character to listen to is not exactly story agency. Others argued there were pinch points that could lead the character down some very different paths, but unless you experienced them all, viewers might not have been totally satisfied.
In a recent interview with Deadline, creator Charlie Brooker was asked if he would consider creating more interactive episodes or content. Here’s what he said:
“While we were making Bandersnatch, we were saying we’d never put ourselves through this again,” Brooker said. “And then, I think, by the end you forget how harrowing it was. So there have been some ideas that have bubbled up, and I’d never say never to returning.
But there’s no point in doing it for the sake of it, because not every story will suit this format, in the same way that not every story would suit the format of a musical or a horror movie.”
Even though the job of making an interactive episode of TV was a herculean effort, (just ask Sam Barlow), it seems that Brooker wouldn’t rule out doing more like Bandersnatch as long as the story made sense for the medium.
Asking whether a story lends itself to interactivity is certainly the right question to ask, but one wonders whether Bandersnatch was designed to be that kind of story. Besides it’s meta narrative about game development, the answer could easily be no.
One thing that I think all critics of IF should agree on is that Bandersnatch brought the IF genre mainstream in a way that could bring more players, fans and developers into the space.
Certainly there were many people we knew who were not aware of IF until they experienced this episode of Black Mirror and the flurry of articles pointing to other similar games and films alerted them to the many examples of great work in the space being done right now.
As huge fans of Black Mirror overall, we’re just happy it’s coming back, interactive or not.
THE PULSE – Coming June 25, 2019