What could Netflix do with choose your own adventure after Black Mirror: Bandersnatch?
The streaming service has opened up a whole new world to experiment with – but would any of these ideas work?
Well, that depends how far Netflix is willing to push what is possible with the new technology at its disposal.
Creator Charlie Brooker closely married the plot of Bandernsatch to the classic choose your own adventure format – but that doesn't necessarily mean that the future needs to be quite so strictly aligned.
From fantasy roleplay to food shows, when you start thinking about what could come next the creative choices available quickly start to expand.
- "It's like trying to do a Rubik's Cube in your head" – Charlie Brooker breaks down how Bandersnatch was made
- How many endings does Black Mirror’s interactive film Bandersnatch have?
The tools have been built. The concept has been proved. Surely this isn't the end of the adventure for Netflix?
Here are just three suggestions for the future of choose your own adventure TV.
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When Cluedo the board game was adapted for screen in 1985, the movie was released with three possible endings. It was ahead of its time; now Netflix could do it for real.
Imagine: you arrive at a crime scene as a grizzled detective's ambitious sidekick. What do you notice first? The footprints? The blood spatters? Each decision you make influences how the investigation plays out and who the suspect could be. The case is yours.
Just like an Agatha Christie plot, at its best a choose your own adventure story is intricate, refined, a puzzle box of mystery and suspense. Add to that the natural urge in a TV crime drama to try and guess the ending: are you smarter than the cop in the show? Now's your chance to prove it.
The only issue? Cluedo the boardgame has 324 different permutations. Given that Charlie Brooker says he was almost driven "crazy" trying to make a show with around half a dozen endings, the options may have to be slightly more limited.
What do you want to cook tonight? Chinese or Italian? Have you got beef or pork in your fridge? Whatever you want, there's a recipe for that.
Food sites like BBC Good Food already have a whole library of recipes based on specific ingredients and cuisines. Coupled with a major streaming service like Netflix, those recipes could be turned into bitesized 'how to' videos that play after you've made your choice.
Clunky? Maybe a little, but if Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay answered your call for immediate recipe inspiration, you might just tune in. It's a stage removed from the standard choose your own adventure format, but the technology driving it is essentially the same.
Alternatively, look at an existing Netflix food show like Nailed It! The format requires contestants to try (and fail) to recreate a cake they've never seen before. In part, the fun lies in discovering what crazy bakes are concealed behind the curtain.
Well, now imagine that you get to pick what the bakers have to make. You choose from say, the princess in the tower or the Donald Trump face cake, and force the contestants to play out your cruellest challenges.
All it requires is Netflix filming two or three different versions with the contestants. Perhaps it's too much work for a whole series, but as a holiday special it would be easy to achieve.
Are you a Stark or Lannister? Gryffindor or Slytherin? Your choice says so much about you – but what if Netflix brought that personality quiz format into the show itself?
Stranger Things has already shown that roleplaying adventures are alive and well thanks to the cult appeal of Dungeons & Dragons. Creating a TV version of that roleplay experience would be a hugely ambitious undertaking, but the audience is clearly there.
Creators wouldn't necessarily have to come up with the number of choices that Bandersnatch offers either. A few key decisions that dictate the type of character viewers would like to follow is all that's needed; from there the series could play out almost as normal, with the added bonus that a re-watch would offer a completely different experience.
Remember too that shows such as Game of Thrones have fought long and hard against the twin demons of online TV: spoilers and piracy. By making a choose your own adventure series, these problems are solved at a stroke.
And if we want to get very dystopian about this (this article was inspired by Black Mirror after all), the data harvested about viewers' decisions and affiliations could be hugely valuable. This isn't just about which cereal you choose in Bandersnatch. These pop culture choices reveal something hugely personal: how you define yourself. Netflix already knows so much about you from what you watch. This is the next level.