This past weekend my friends and I got together and watched Bandersnatch – the standalone Black Mirror episode/movie on Netflix. It was highly talked about when it released at the end of December last year, but I had put off watching it in favor of making it a group activity. My friends and I had fun playing both Until Dawn and Hidden Agenda (although we all agreed the former was way better than the latter) and this was likely going to be a similar experience.
Bandersnatch was touted as a kind of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure movie where you get to make choices for the protagonist and affect the ending of the episode. It ended up being very similar to a Telltale game or Until Dawn – where two choices were presented to you and you had a time limit as to decide which way to direct the character. The group seemed to have a lot of fun with it and the episode itself was pretty entertaining – over the course of about three hours we managed to see most of what the episode had to offer.
The idea of an interactive story has been around for a while – after all Choose Your Own Adventure as books for kids have been around since the 1980s. However Bandersnatch was definitely targeted towards adults and adds an interesting data point towards the future of interactive media (especially with virtual reality possibly just around the corner). But Bandersnatch’s viewer engagement also intersects with the world of gaming and how they give you choices, and I’d like to take a moment and talk for a little bit about Bandersnatch, games like Until Dawn and Telltale choice-based games, and games like Mass Effect which also offer the illusion of choice.
Since it came out several weeks ago, I’m going to be talking very openly about Bandersnatch, so just as a warning spoilers will follow for the Black Mirror episode as well as some of the games I just previously listed. You’ve been warned.