Black Mirror

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

The latest installment in that wonderful series Black Mirror, Bandersnatch is extra unusual in that it is a choose-your-own-adventure game built into the TV show. Instead of just passively watching the show you have to make choices along the way, by clicking on one of two options presented at the bottom of the screen. Initially the choices are innocuous - what cereal to eat, what music to listen to, etc. As the show progresses the choices become really dark, deciding people's fate.

While I haven't finished the show yet, what I've seen has started getting quite disturbing. As mentioned the story puts you in a position to decide the fates of certain characters, and the points where these choices happened felt early enough that it was pushing the story too much, too fast for this to be a reasonable plot point. Instead it feels like the story is too eager to force the "player" / "viewer" to choose murder over alternative options. While video games have always had an element of death / murder, flipping it around so that the characters are clearly people rather than animated pixels (uncanny valley not withstanding) is .. unsettling.

I also wonder if Netflix are tracking the options selected by viewers, and, if so, what might happen to that data? If a sufficiently large portion of the viewers select the murder options early enough in the game will Netflix use this information to dictate content of future shows.

One thing worth noting is that I remember in the early-to-mid 1990's the BBC show Tomorrow's World had an episode where they foreshadowed the day when a TV show would become interactive - not playing a game which has FMV, which have been around since the 1980's, but a full-on TV show being interactive. I find this to be quite an interesting parallel - I wonder if the show's creators remember that episode too?

Update: For what it's worth, I did get to the "happy" ending, without needing to select to kill (actively) any of the characters, so that's at least possible to do. I'm not sure I'm going to go back to it again, I think I'm content with this ending.

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