On December 28, 2018, Netflix officially launched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film that allowed consumers to make decisions for the protagonist throughout the story, with each decision branching into a different storyline and ultimately, ending. This was not the first ever interactive show or movie — Netflix had previously launched a handful of interactive children’s fare, while HBO debuted the six-episode Steven Soderbergh directed interactive series Mosaic in 2017.
Bandersnatch was, however, the first interactive film to gain widespread media attention and acclaim. Following its release, articles appeared with hyperbolic headlines such as “The TV of Tomorrow Is Now Here,” and “Will Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’s Interactivity Change Cinema Forever?”
The critical success of Bandersnatch encouraged Netflix to double-down on interactive storytelling, and other media companies have followed suit. YouTube recently announced it was developing interactive programming, NBCUniversal has released an app named “Series: Your Story Universe” which pairs some of its notable IP with interactive storytelling, and Walmart invested $250 million in a joint venture with Eko to produce interactive content.
Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox (now part of Disney) had already licensed the film rights to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series and is working with a startup called CtrlMovie to release interactive films in theaters, in which audiences could collectively vote on narrative choices throughout a film.
Is the recent hype and investment in interactive storytelling justified? Or was Bandersnatch appreciated by audiences simply as a novel experience — one which was admittedly well produced? If “interactive content” is the future of media, what form will it take, and how can it best be implemented?
What is Interactive Storytelling?
While “interactive storytelling” sounds like a hot new category for the future of entertainment, it’s a vague and broad term. Let’s be clear that interactive content has existed for decades — we just called them video games. Games are fully…