Interactive, sure, but who's really controlling who?
So I had my doubts about Netflix’s new interactive “choose your adventure” episode of the Twilight Zone-ish anthology Black Mirror that they just dropped with no notice, Bandersnatch, but I gave it a spin and found a lot to like. I don’t know if I’m ready for a future where I have to tell TV characters what to do, but it was interesting how the story is about that very thing, how our reality is now so merged with our tech-delivered entertainment that it’s hard to tell what’s real any more (especially since everyone is fast developing the ability to mold their own individual realities). The same tech that merges the real and fictional has also obliterated the lines of time, as everything old becomes new again on the internet and everyone using it essentially becomes a time traveler.
Keep in mind that, as I’m watching the episode (set in the 1980s), I’m running my old 1980s beta videotape machine on another monitor, duping rare old TV shows to DVD and digital to watch and upload later. I just recently got the beta machine refurbished and have been watching the tapes for the first time in over a quarter century, which I’ve frequently likened to time travelling.
Black Mirror Bandersnatch trailer
Now with Black Mirror Bandersnatch (named for a character mentioned in verse in Alice in Wonderland), every decision you click affects the story, which has multiple storylines and outcomes, pending what you click along the way. I really wasn’t sold on this (wait, I’m choosing which cereal he eats and what tape he plays in the car, and this is important to the story?) until about 10 minutes in, when I found my character in a 1980s record store, and I had to have him buy either my favorite album by Tangerine Dream or my least favorite album by Tomita. Whaaaat?!?! How did they know how much I love those two bands (has Netflix been monitoring my eBay purchases??)….so I pick Tangerine Dream and, sure enough, that turned out to matter.
As the story began to draw me in (especially after a character tried to initiate a direct conversation with me!), it really began to feel as if I'd fallen down one of Alice's hallucinogenic rabbit holes, so I decided to turn off the beta machine that was running with the sound turned down. And then, all of a sudden, the Black Mirror story began centering around a beta videotape. One one screen, I’m duping a beta tape, and on my other screen was a beta tape, the exact same brand as the one I was pulling from my machine at that very second. Duuuude….
I don’t want to turn this into a spoiler, so ‘nuff said for now – if you like previous Black Mirror eps (several of which are referenced in the new story) and/or role playing games and “choose your adventure” books, you’d probably enjoy time travelling and blurring the lines of reality with the new Black Mirror. Apparently, it can run anywhere from a half hour to several hours, depending on where you decide to take the story with your mouse clicks.
I’ve yet to go back and try different avenues, because I can kind of guess where a lot of it could have gone with different choices on my part. I’m satisfied with the decisions I made, and how it ended up, and have no regrets or wishes to relive OR re-do anything.
Which ALSO pretty much merges with my reality…