Pick your own plot di­rec­tions

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Pay Television - Justin Burke Ban­der­snatch,

Black Mir­ror’s Ban­der­snatch re­cently ar­rived on Netflix, and it is a gen­uinely ground­break­ing, must-watch episode of tele­vi­sion.

I has­ten to clar­ify: I’m not sure it is ac­tu­ally “tele­vi­sion” any more, as it could more ac­cu­rately be de­scribed as an in­ter­ac­tive vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ence, akin to the Choose Your Own Ad­ven­ture books many will re­call from the 1980s and 90s.

Ban­der­snatch stars Fionn White­head as Ste­fan But­ler, a young pro­gram­mer in Eng­land circa 1984, who is at­tempt­ing to adapt a sprawl­ing fan­tasy novel into a video game in time for the pre-Christ­mas sales win­dow.

And if you are watch­ing on a rea­son­ably re­cent de­vice, com­puter or TV, you will be quickly con­fronted with choices that guide the sub­se­quent nar­ra­tive, from the pro­saic (such as which ce­real to choose) to those of the life-and­death va­ri­ety.

One ben­e­fit is that it in­jects some of the con­tin­gency, ran­dom­ness and un­cer­tainty of real life into the drama.

It also makes But­ler more re­lat­able, as he is mak­ing the choices the au­di­ence mem­bers think are rea­son­able.

It is also very “meta”. Not only is this in­ter­ac­tive show about the cre­ation of an in­ter­ac­tive game, but in the it­er­a­tion I watched, But­ler started to re­sist my choices and rant about be­ing con­trolled by unseen forces.

(At one point, his psy­chi­a­trist asked him why, if his life was be­ing con­trolled and filmed for some­one’s en­ter­tain­ment in the fu­ture, was he not do­ing any­thing more “en­ter­tain­ing”? I sub­se­quently chose for him to ini­ti­ate a kung-fu fight with her.)

It’s pretty great, and def­i­nitely a glimpse of the fu­ture of screen en­ter­tain­ment. stream­ing on Netflix.

Fionn White­head in Netflix’s in­ter­ac­tive Black Mir­ror: Ban­der­snatch

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