Black Mirror series five is now streaming on Netflix, offering three unsettling new tales of our reliance on and relationship to technology starring the likes of Miley Cyrus, Andrew Scott and the Avengers’ Anthony Mackie.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already watched all the new episodes already (no judgement!) – but if you did, did you spot the plot hole in the series’ first episode, videogame-themed story Striking Vipers?
“You’re the first person to raise it,” series creator Charlie Brooker told Radio Times ruefully when we spoke to him about the name episodes. “But we did discuss it.”
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But what was the plot hole? Well, starring Mackie and Aquaman’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the story follows two old friends who try to reconnect over an advanced virtual reality video game, which allows players to fight while feeling every physical sensation of the avatars they’re controlling.
As a consequence of this, Mackie and Abdul-Mateen’s characters unexpectedly begin a virtual sexual relationship every time they meet for a bout, with the fallout affecting their lives massively.
While watching the film, however, one question kept occurring to us – if the game’s intended for fighting, why include the sex functionality at all? Why is this Tekken-style fighter SUCH a good sex simulator, and if this technology exists why isn’t there a simulation with just that in mind?
In other words, who programmed this all-ages fighting game with the capability of staging an elaborate physical affair, when presumably other bodily functions and movements (for example, leaving the fighting stages) are still controlled?
“The game designers have probably left too much in…they programmed this too well!” Brooker laughs when Radio Times puts this to him.
“It does feel very much like a feature rather than a bug, doesn’t it? It feels like they’re just saying… ‘Oh, BY ACCIDENT we’ve allowed this to happen in this game.’”
Brooker admitted that he and fellow showrunner Annabel Jones did note the slight logical leap in an early stage – at one point a character notes the computer characters aren’t programmed to reciprocate the sex and “just lie there,” so it’s clearly not an intended function of the game – but the pair decided it was a small enough detail that it didn’t need addressing.
“We did have that thought, Brooker told us. “In the end we thought ‘we won’t focus on that, no-one’s going to mention it.’ We were wrong!”
“Yes, pedant!” added Jones. “In a way it’s all part of it being hyper-real.”
And perhaps there is some sort of explanation to be found for Striking Viper’s capabilities. Maybe the whole game is a front, created to allow people to secretly indulge in virtual sex without the stigma of buying porn games (assuming they exist in this universe).
And maybe, for two men like the lead characters in this film the cover of a macho fighting game to screen their activities would appeal more than an explicit porn engine. It’s not so long since people were still claiming to buy Playboy ‘for the articles’ after all…
Black Mirror season five is streaming on Netflix now