Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (interactive TV)

Thomas Veil

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Feb 14, 2004
2,586
7,864
OBJECTIVE reality
I tried this out yesterday, and I must say it’s an interesting experience.

For the uninitiated, "Bandersnatch" is a movie (actually, an extended TV episode) of the Black Mirror series on Netflix. It's unique in that it's a choose-your-own-adventure story in which, periodically, you are given choices to direct what the main character does next.

Because of the interactive technology used, it does not work on all devices. I watched "Bandersnatch" on my iPhone but noted that it was also available on my iMac. Quite a few TVs probably won't be able to show it, however.

The basic story takes place in the 1980s and involves a young video game developer whose already sucky life slowly starts to go seriously sideways.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that it becomes a little bit weird when the story gets all meta and...well, that's as much as I should really say. That's the truly interesting part. :D

It's a good idea, and I doubt this is the last such program we'll see. And it brings up the following question: will all TV (and movies) be like this someday? Will we each be watching shows with so many variables and multiple endings that we'll be watching the same titles, but not exactly the same stories?

Personally, though the novelty of "Bandersnatch" is entertaining, I think I prefer a linear story, told the way the writer intended it to end.

But then again, if you like the concept but think the ending sucks, an interactive movie would give you the option of seeing it again, potentially improved (in your opinion).

I could even see a day when a lot of programs are like this, and they are offered with a "writer's cut" in which we are offered a linear version which is what the writer intended, but also an interactive version that takes you down alternative paths.

Or, this could just turn out to be a novelty. It'll be interesting to see what happens to this format of storytelling.
 
Last edited:

alpi123

macrumors 65816
Jun 18, 2014
1,245
1,220
Only if I could get this thing to stream 4K I would watch it. But for now, I'm not able to force it.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,540
3,339
Or, this could just turn out to be a novelty. It'll be interesting to see what happens to this format of storytelling.
Well, the take-home from Bandersnatch is that creating interactive fiction drives you crazy - which might discourage people.

Its not as if it is a new idea - apart from the "choose your own adventure" books, it was even parodied in the 1966 film of Fahrenheit 451 (and I presume its in the book*) and there was a flurry of interest in the 80s/90s when non-linear video on Laservision was going to be the Next Big Thing (the Black Mirror episode is, probably non-coincidentally, set around the time when the laserdisc-based Dragon's Lair arcade game appeared).

The issue was nicely summed up by Ben Elton (or watch Fahrenheit 451):

"The public always had the technology to get involved with the action if they wanted to. Right back to the Greeks. All they had to do was get up on stage and join in. But they didn't do it, did they? Weird, huh? Maybe, just maybe, they kind of guessed that it would completely screw up the show."
Ben Elton - This Other Eden (1993)

OK, so Laservision in the home never caught on, nor did the early CD-based consoles (CDTV/CDi) so at first the hardware wasn't there. However, from the late 90s and onward it could have been delivered to PCs and consoles. So why not?

Well, maybe because if you want an interactive, personalised entertainment experience, there are much better ways of doing it. E.g.

1974: Dungeons and Dragons - is this not interactive fiction? It has certainly had a bigger impact on popular culture than non-linear video.

1984: Elite - early example of a "sandbox" game where you could choose your own goals and those choices had a long-term impact on your progress. Fast forward to the present, and we have things like Minecraft and GTA that let you explore fantasy worlds fairly freely. Most 3D games now have some sort of interactive plot.

Or, of course, there's Face-twit-tube - because reality is stranger than fiction. Then there's the combination of gaming and social networking (World of Warcraft, Fortnight?)

So, when we have pervasive interactive entertainment in simulated worlds where actions have non-scripted consequences - scripted non-linear drama is just an expensive, limited and clunky way of delivering second best.

Bandersnatch is a special case because it is a scripted non-linear drama about scripted, non-linear drama - Even if you feel frustrated because your choices are limited and always seem to steer you back to the pre-determined outcome, that's part of the story. How many shows can you make about deconstructing the whole idea of interactive fiction?

(Oh, wait, Watchmen came out in the 1980s and Hollywood are still churning out lets-deconstruct-the-superhero-myth shows on a monthly basis, so the answer to that is "quite a lot...")

Netflix's implementation is certainly very slick in the way it delivers the branches seamlessly, and (Apple TV excepted) works on the equiplent you already have, so I expect there will be a little flurry, but ultimately I think it will, like 3D, end up as another solution looking for a problem.

(* which I confess to not having read - bit of irony there...)
 

Huntn

macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
18,856
19,914
The Misty Mountains
I tried this out yesterday, and I must say it’s an interesting experience.

For the uninitiated, "Bandersnatch" is a movie (actually, an extended TV episode) of the Black Mirror series on Netflix. It's unique in that it's a choose-your-own-adventure story in which, periodically, you are given choices to direct what the main character does next.

Because of the interactive technology used, it does not work on all devices. I watched "Bandersnatch" on my iPhone but noted that it was also available on my iMac. Quite a few TVs probably won't be able to show it, however.

The basic story takes place in the 1980s and involves a young video game developer whose already sucky life slowly starts to go seriously sideways.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that it becomes a little bit weird when the story gets all meta and...well, that's as much as I should really say. That's the truly interesting part. :D

It's a good idea, and I doubt this is the last such program we'll see. And it brings up the following question: will all TV (and movies) be like this someday? Will we each be watching shows with so many variables and multiple endings that we'll be watching the same titles, but not exactly the same stories?

Personally, though the novelty of "Bandersnatch" is entertaining, I think I prefer a linear story, told the way the writer intended it to end.

But then again, if you like the concept but think the ending sucks, an interactive movie would give you the option of seeing it again, potentially improved (in your opinion).

I could even see a day when a lot of programs are like this, and they are offered with a "writer's cut" in which we are offered a linear version which is what the writer intended, but also an interactive version that takes you down alternative paths.

Or, this could just turn out to be a novelty. It'll be interesting to see what happens to this format of storytelling.
It reminds me, I’m imagining of an adventure video game where the choices you make have consequences you may face later, but maybe not, if the only path though leads to single ending. I’m thinking primarily of Fallout 4 where a nuke goes off in Boston or it does not. However becoming aware of the game’s limits in choice making, I cheated and found the solution for the happy ending for 3 factions, because I did not like how the game tried to funneled me to specific definitive endings and made imo, the most obvious ending, that you could have your cake and eat it too, impossible. It was not as if I could change my mind on the fly with complete autonimity. To talk about this more, ask in This Fallout 4 thread: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/the-fallout-4-end-game-what-now.2010433/. :)

Based on this experience, I can’t predict how popular this is in a TV show, but I imagine the plus side is the fun of choosing a direction where you don't know the consequences, (regardless of choice, you don't know the consequences) versus making a bad choice that leads to an unlikeable ending, if one is offered, and then wondering what outstanding ending you missed? Again, is there a single or multiple possible endings?

And will average people have the patience to watch a show like this and actually try a variety of paths to different endings and enjoy this as part of the experience? In other words you feel obligated to watch each variant to look for something better or see the worst case ending? I imagine some of the calculation is based on just how drastically different or subtle, each ending is, if there is more than one.

The first time I remember watched an alternate ending on a movie (on DVD) was the third X-Men film, and that ending as compared to the entire story was a mild change.

The counter might be, just enjoy the story in a single version as the writer intended it to be. If this (variable paths) catches on, I can see the kind of scenario where spoiler sights might help you pick the ending you think you’ll like, if you don’t have the patience to work through the variable paths to an ending. Or do all paths lead to the same overall ending, more or less?

I found this article helpful: https://www.slashfilm.com/how-to-watch-bandersnatch/. Based on this, I have to ask, is there just one acceptable path through to a single ending, because wrong choices send you back to a story branch? If so, the example in the article, bury a body versus chop up a body, seems to a choice of pure chance, without any insight as if one choice could be better than the other, so why bother going through the exercise?

I’ve altered this reply a couple of times, so it may not sound consistent. :oops:
 
Last edited:

scubachap

macrumors regular
Aug 30, 2016
177
279
UK
but ultimately I think it will, like 3D, end up as another solution looking for a problem.
is there just one acceptable path through to a single ending, because wrong choices send you back to a story branch? If so, the example in the article, bury a body versus chop up a body, seems to a choice of pure chance, without any insight as if one choice could be better than the other, so why bother going through the exercise?
I'll read that article but I agree with the general points above. We watched it and while the yoof (x2) of the family enjoyed it*, we (adults) found it frustrating in that it became obvious to us that there was a predetermined path you should take. Deviation from that path punted you surprisingly quickly back to an earlier point to 'remake' your previous 50 / 50 decision. It became, for us, an exercise in trying to second guess what the writer would want us to do to try and get to one of the three(?) possible endings to avoid often ending up in a narrative dead end. In all, I found it pretty frustrating.

Technically on a Roku it was seamless (so it's got potential - but they'll have to spend a lot more money to really get it to work) and more interestingly for me it looked like it was all filmed in Croydon (the 50p Building, the run down arcade (the 80s WHSmith branch) where the hoody types with their fightybitey dogs currently hang out etc etc).

* They thought it was all new, I tried to explain the Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books but got nowhere...
 
  • Like
Reactions: Huntn

Zxxv

macrumors 68040
Nov 13, 2011
3,558
1,102
UK
Personally, though the novelty of "Bandersnatch" is entertaining, I think I prefer a linear story, told the way the writer intended it to end.
Actually it is a linear story. You just died before you reached the end. Rewatch it and you’ll see the clues are all there. You have no choice just the illusion of choice. The game spells it out. It’s like a video game you didn’t complete. It gave you a false feeling of completion but that’s a trick. There are levels to get to that many have not yet explored as it’s really hard to get to find them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Thomas Veil

sunapple

macrumors 68000
Jul 16, 2013
1,930
2,889
The Netherlands
It’s a game with the goal being to both get the highest possible rating on the game Bendersnatch and to see all possible story lines by clicking the TV in the credits. It’s awesome!

Included picture should include all choices and story lines.

 

Zxxv

macrumors 68040
Nov 13, 2011
3,558
1,102
UK
I'll read that article but I agree with the general points above. We watched it and while the yoof (x2) of the family enjoyed it*, we (adults) found it frustrating in that it became obvious to us that there was a predetermined path you should take. Deviation from that path punted you surprisingly quickly back to an earlier point to 'remake' your previous 50 / 50 decision. It became, for us, an exercise in trying to second guess what the writer would want us to do to try and get to one of the three(?) possible endings to avoid often ending up in a narrative dead end. In all, I found it pretty frustrating.
Colin actually tells you this is not the correct way to play to get where you need to get.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Thomas Veil

Mac'nCheese

Suspended
Feb 9, 2010
3,753
5,098
Here's how to get the top secret, super duper easter egg ending:


Sugar puffs
Thompson twins
Accept
Accept
Go back
Refuse
Yes
No
The Bermuda Triangle
Shout at Dad
Visit Dr. Haynes
Pull Earlobe
Take them
Follow Colin
Yes
Stefan
Go back
Colin
Flush them
Hit desk
Pick up book
PAC
Throw tea over computer
P.A.C.S.
20541
Who’s there?
Netflix
Try to explain
Tell him more
**** yeah
Fight her
Kick him in the balls
Who’s there?
White Bear symbol
Back off
Kill dad
Bury body
Yes
He jumped
Chop or bury?
Chop up body
Destroy computer
Pick up photo
White Bear symbol
Chop up body
Destroy computer
Get rabbit from dad
PAX
White Bear symbol
Chop up body
Destroy computer
Get rabbit from dad
Toy
Yes

https://uproxx.com/tv/black-mirror-bandersnatch-secret-ending/3/
 

C DM

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Oct 17, 2011
48,130
16,778
Here's how to get the top secret, super duper easter egg ending:


Sugar puffs
Thompson twins
Accept
Accept
Go back
Refuse
Yes
No
The Bermuda Triangle
Shout at Dad
Visit Dr. Haynes
Pull Earlobe
Take them
Follow Colin
Yes
Stefan
Go back
Colin
Flush them
Hit desk
Pick up book
PAC
Throw tea over computer
P.A.C.S.
20541
Who’s there?
Netflix
Try to explain
Tell him more
**** yeah
Fight her
Kick him in the balls
Who’s there?
White Bear symbol
Back off
Kill dad
Bury body
Yes
He jumped
Chop or bury?
Chop up body
Destroy computer
Pick up photo
White Bear symbol
Chop up body
Destroy computer
Get rabbit from dad
PAX
White Bear symbol
Chop up body
Destroy computer
Get rabbit from dad
Toy
Yes

https://uproxx.com/tv/black-mirror-bandersnatch-secret-ending/3/
Interesting, this was only about the 3rd ending I stumbled on as I've been exploring (not sure if it was based on those exact choices in that sequence). Didn't realize it was a top secret/easter egg one, any more than any other ones were basically.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mac'nCheese

NeilHD

macrumors regular
Jul 24, 2014
204
285
I'll read that article but I agree with the general points above. We watched it and while the yoof (x2) of the family enjoyed it*, we (adults) found it frustrating in that it became obvious to us that there was a predetermined path you should take. Deviation from that path punted you surprisingly quickly back to an earlier point to 'remake' your previous 50 / 50 decision. It became, for us, an exercise in trying to second guess what the writer would want us to do to try and get to one of the three(?) possible endings to avoid often ending up in a narrative dead end. In all, I found it pretty frustrating.

Technically on a Roku it was seamless (so it's got potential - but they'll have to spend a lot more money to really get it to work) and more interestingly for me it looked like it was all filmed in Croydon (the 50p Building, the run down arcade (the 80s WHSmith branch) where the hoody types with their fightybitey dogs currently hang out etc etc).

* They thought it was all new, I tried to explain the Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books but got nowhere...
That's the point right - as Colin yells out "I am not in control!" - well, neither, really are you.

Gotta love Black Mirror!

I also found the Croydon bit interesting - grew up very near there (and not that far from there now). The 80's WH Smiths was on St George's Walk.
 
  • Like
Reactions: scubachap

scubachap

macrumors regular
Aug 30, 2016
177
279
UK
It gave you a false feeling of completion but that’s a trick.
That's the point right - as Colin yells out "I am not in control!" - well, neither, really are you.

I also found the Croydon bit interesting - grew up very near there (and not that far from there now). The 80's WH Smiths was on St George's Walk.
I don't think anyone can miss that it's making points about free will, and choice, blue pill / red pill etc etc but to my mind it's clumsily and heavily done. I think it's interesting that Zxxv mentions a feeling of completion as that's really my irritation - at no point did I ever get a sense of completion. To my mind choices have to feel like they make a difference especially if the point is that they don't. But YMMV...

I think they should have just left the set set-up in St Georges Walk - even the 80's would be an improvement!
 
  • Like
Reactions: NeilHD

Similar threads

Replies
18
Views
2K
  • seeforyourself
4
Replies
4
Views
854
Replies
1
Views
533
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.