Black Mirror: Bandersnactch is now on Netflix, offering fans of the sci-fi/horror series the first truly interactive viewing experience of the streaming era.
However, those unfamiliar with role-playing games of choice, or popular forms of interactive storytelling like the classic "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series, the experience of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch may be confusing and/or pretty overwhelming. In order to help guide viewers through (or at least explain what the larger story of the film really is) one Black Mirror fan has created the ultimate cheat-sheet flow chart, mapping out all of the choices viewers make in Bandersnatch:
As you can see above, the steps that went into making Black Mirror: Bandersnatch were not light and breezy. Making a flow chart is its own kind of intellectual challenge, and making one that can form an algorithm for not only navigating a narrative and character arcs, but also bringing that narrative and navigational choice to the screen, is an entirely new level of challenge altogether. It's clear when you look at the chart that there's a very thin pathway to the destination of the "Bandersnatch" video game getting released and scoring a 5 out of 5 rating. It's smart in the fact that it requires some of the biggest movements in choice to get where to that successful conclusion, but therein may also lie the biggest drawback of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Indeed, as this experimental form of content generates headlines and interest (as it is currently doing), it will be interesting to see just how many people hang in there for the full interactive journey (along any of these pathways) - and then, how many go in for what Netflix most likely truly wants: multiple repeat viewings per user, as fans search for the new outcomes. It's not that Bandersnatch is poorly conceived or constructed: it just may be too novel and complicated to become a mainstream hit.
Synopsis: "Bandersnatch is presented as an interactive film. A brief tutorial, specific to the device being streamed on, explains to the viewer how to make choices. They have ten seconds to make choices, or a default decision is made. Once a playthrough ends, the viewer is given an option of going back and making a different choice. The average viewing is 90 minutes, though the quickest path ends after 40 minutes. There is 150 minutes of unique footage divided into 250 segments. According to Netflix, there are five "main" endings, with variants within each ending. When the viewer reaches such an ending, the interactive film gives the player a chance to redo a last critical choice as to be able to explore these endings. In some cases, the viewer can reach the same segment in multiple different ways, but be given different choices based on the way they reached the segment. In other cases, certain loops guide viewers to a specific narrative regardless of the choices they make."
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is now streaming on Netflix - if you choose to watch it.