Make a choice: Do you want to engage with your media passively or actively?
Interactive storytelling is a form of digital entertainment in which the story line is not predetermined. The author creates the setting, characters, and situation which the narrative must address, but the user experiences a unique story based on their interactions with the story world.This allows us to build complex narratives that include loops, guiding viewers back to the main story when they strayed too far, giving them a chance of a do-over.
NETFLIX BRANCHES OUT
The December 2018 premiere of Netflix’s Black Mirror Bandersnatch offered consumers a new way to experience the entertainment they’re watching. What viewers might see as a simple choice, such as which breakfast cereal a character begins the day with, could affect the whole show’s story line. There are other choices to make as well, some of which change the plot, and some of which may not.
Viewers aren’t watching these interactive films just once. Rather, they are watching them over and over again to find each ending and post maps of the plot lines. I think I sat on my couch for nearly three hours straight trying to find all of Bandersnatch’s choices as it followed a programmer and designer through the process of game development.
CONTROLLING YOUR OWN DESTINY
Dungeons & Dragons provides a way to understand and expand what Bandersnatch explores. Role-playing games let players pick characters with multiple traits, such as strength, health and special skills, and work together to achieve story-driven goals.
Role-playing games started with players gathered around a table, keeping notes on paper and rolling dice to incorporate the role of chance and probability into the adventure. A human game master coordinated everything, keeping track of what was happening and working with players to advance their stories and the overall plot of the adventure.
ILLUSION OF CHOICE
With Bandersnatch, Netflix used software to process viewers’ choices and deliver the appropriate video. When watching and “playing,” I wondered if there were too few choices. The show offered only two choices of breakfast cereal, and the viewer couldn’t choose to skip breakfast, make eggs, or open the freezer to grab some ice cream. But maybe there’s a very good reason for these constraints.
FUTURE OF INTERACTIVE MEDIA
There will be more interactive movies. Netflix has built its own software for Bandersnatch, which it can use for other stories too. There are already several addictive interactive kids’ shows, including Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale and Buddy Thunderstruck.
Gamers are already familiar with this style of film, interactivity, and branching narrative. Cinematic video games, like Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, let players make choices in dialog and other cinematic aspects, all of which alter the endings.
As technology continues to grow and expand, so do movies. Choosing your own ending adds a twist and excitement to entertainment today and will be the future of Media.