Despite being a defunct company, the influence of the industry pioneering studio Telltale Games is still evident months after its tragic closure. Their signature format of choose your own path episodic adventures has proven to be successful with Telltale securing deals with some big names. Their titles have also managed to inject emotions into players, with popular YouTuber PewDiePie being moved by a scene in their adaptation of The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, Telltale went under just months ago after a prolonged period of poor management.
Before their demise, Telltale were working on a title based on the hit Netflix show – Stranger Things. Nothing was said after the closure about the game other than Netflix are still interested. In the meantime, subscribers to the streaming platform were handed Minecraft: Story Mode. This was a strange move considering Netflix have never released a game into their catalog of movies and TV shows. The reason why Minecraft: Story Mode works on the platform is because the game doesn’t require you to wield a blade or pull sharp drifts. Instead, it takes you on a cinematic journey while allowing you to make decisions at vital parts of the story which ultimately determine the outcome of the characters. Netflix have never attempted incorporating something like this into an adult franchise (such as Stranger Things), keeping the genre strictly to kid-orientated content (such as Puss in Boots and Stretch Armstrong).
That changed last week however when the streaming giant announced Bandersnatch; a standalone episode of one of their most popular shows – Black Mirror. The show takes a look at the bleak effect of technology through a series of unrelated, hour long short films that have gathered a cult following thanks to their addictive plots and overarching themes. Bandersnatch carries the Black Mirror torch but gives the viewers a say in what happens in the dismal story.
The story follows a young programmer in 1980s England called Stefan who works on converting a popular book, titled ‘Bandersnatch’ into a 3D maze text adventure game. His life quickly spirals out of control though as his desire to finish Bandersnatch consumes him. Stefan begins to become delusional, blurring the lines between the book and his reality.
The movie asks you to make choices, dictating the protagonist’s fate. These decisions can range from what he has for breakfast to whether he’ll take his medication. Most of these choices will determine which of the multiple endings the movie offers
Netflix’s VP of product Todd Yellin has insisted that “we [Netflix] don’t think of this as a game” which is, fair enough but I can’t help but draw parallels with titles such as Late Shift. FMVs fall into a video game grey area as they don’t carry the conventional action of a video game but still put the viewer/player in control. After all, the good majority of video games tell stories. Some are cleverly weaved into the gameplay while some make it abundantly clear as to why the character is hoarding cheese barrels.
Games are a form of storytelling and just as Black Mirror manages to blur the lines of reality, Bandersnatch manages to blur the lines of video games and movies, almost striking a middle between them and executing it perfectly. If you you’ve been anywhere near Twitter for the past 24 hours, chances are you’ve seen the whirlwind of praise for Bandersnatch. Hell, it even secured a comfortable fourth place on trending. With success like this, it’s likely we’ll be seeing more interactive films in the future.
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