If you work in interactive narrative at all, there was a period recently where you could not go anywhere without people asking your opinion of Bandersnatch, Netflix’s branching-narrative episode of Black Mirror.
Because I am ornery and/or busy and/or was sick part of the relevant time, I didn’t watch it then. Still, I was aware that IF folks felt
- annoyed that people were treating this as massively innovative when there are tens of thousands of works, produced over the past fifty plus years, exploring the possibilities of interactive story, including quite a lot specifically of interactive film if we’re narrowing the gaze to just that
- disappointed that a lot of the choices were kind of basic
- weary at the prospect of yet another Author’s First Interactive Work about free will vs chance, fate, and external control — this theme being (for obvious reasons) not exactly new in the interactive narrative canon
- excited by the hope that this meant big commercial possibilities for interactive story
- like ignoring Bandersnatch and playing more Cragne Manor
I have now watched, and here is my opinion, now that no one is asking.
The short version: I found Bandersnatch slightly more satisfying than a lot of my friends did, perhaps because I happen to have landed on an ending that is, I gather, rare.
At the same time, I had various criticisms of it. Some amount to “this is a first interactive work by someone new to the possibilities, and it’s designed for an audience that is also not particularly literate in interactive fiction, and I guess that’s to be expected.” Others are more serious issues with the messages and themes.
Long version below the fold.