Charlie Brooker considers the future of choose your own adventure TV after Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
The screenwriter shares his idea for what Netflix could do next with the format – as well as the problems he faced when making his own interactive movie…
New Netflix movie Bandersnatch is a truly unique creation, a choose-your-own-adventure story from the Black Mirror team that blurs the line between narrative and gaming.
It makes for a truly interactive film – and reportedly, Netflix is already considering future uses for the format.
But what could those uses be? Bandersnatch writer Charlie Brooker has weighed in on possible future applications for choose-your-own-adventure stories.
“I have thought of sort of things you could do,” Brooker told RadioTimes.com.
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“I could see completely different forms you could do, where you could do like a documentary. And you could have like endless digressions if you want.
“I could see that you could do a thing where Brian Cox came out and went, 'Welcome to Interactive Secrets of the Universe! Would you like to know about MARS? Or would you like to know about BLACK HOLES?'
“Do you want to know more about that, or are you f***ing bored? You know, I could see all of that working.”
“That would be so boring,” countered Black Mirror co-showrunner Annabel Jones, spurring Brooker to think of more dramatic applications for the format.
“I could also see a true crime documentary where you're sort of investigating leads... and you're eventually killing someone. No, not really,” he laughed.
“There's loads of scenarios you could think of. You could do an action thing – there's all sorts of different genres where you could see where it would apply itself.”
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However, Brooker said there was one flaw with the choose-your-own-adventure format that could cause problems for anyone trying to advance the formula to tell new stories.
“I suppose the central problem is, who's the main character?” Brooker said.
“Because characters are defined by what they do. If the viewer is saying what they do, then you've got a sort of problem there,” he explained.
“It's a tricky one, in that on the one level Bandersnatch allows you hopefully to sit back and sort of watch it as a piece of drama,” Brooker continued.
“On the other hand, we were also acutely aware that because this is interactive, and you need your remote control close by, you can’t ever forget that you're there.
“When you're watching a TV show or a film, most of the time you forget that you exist and you're just caught up in it. In this, you're reminded every so often, and you had to be.”
Brooker and Jones’ solution was to build this tension into the story of Bandersnatch – after a while, Stefan begins to become aware that he’s being controlled, and users are even given the opportunity to communicate with him – but as they noted, that wouldn’t be viable for every sort of story.
“It’s an equation you've got to solve somehow for it to make sense,” Brooker concluded.
“Or you just sacrifice that emotional engagement with the protagonist, and then it becomes more of a game maybe,” added Jones.
We hope anyone planning their own interactive adventure is taking notes…
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is streaming on Netflix now