Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Episodes Are The Hot New Streaming Trend
Photo: Letizia Le Fur
Netflix recently announced that the popular series Black Mirror will allow fans the chance to interact with the show when the fifth season features a choose-your-own-adventure episode. If there was ever a show that feels perfect for the interactive model, it’s the Emmy-winning series that often highlights some of the most hellishly disturbing themes of this era.
Created by Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is an anthology series that taps into our collective unease with modern technology. Each stand-alone episode features a sharp, suspenseful tale exploring themes of contemporary techno-paranoia. It’s a subject full of possibilities as technology is with us 24-7 and incessantly stares back at us, hence the Black Mirror title.
This isn’t the first interactive entertainment undertaking of its kind and it definitely won’t be the last. Jim Spare, the chief operating officer of interactive production company Eko, told Bloomberg that choose-your-own-adventure TV shows are destined to “become a mainstream experience.” Here are some examples of the burgeoning genre.
Steven Soderbergh’s Mosaic at HBO is a six-part linear narrative that came with an interactive storytelling experience that viewers could download as a free app. The Mosaic app allows viewers to choose the point-of-view they follow and create their own experience from the material Soderbergh and writer Ed Solomon created. The choices build upon one another, enabling multiple tellings of the story from different perspectives, sometimes with different conclusions. The coolest part is being able to compare the versions you come up with on the app.
Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale
Netflix has played around with interactive storytelling in animated kids shows, such as in the goofy comedy series Buddy Thunderstruck and Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale, which continues the adventures of the popular Shrek character. Puss in Book is a brilliant kid’s show and the choices are simple. When prompted, the viewer picks one of two options, like whether the feline fights a god or a tree, for example. If you need to keep the young ones distracted for a bit, this show will do the trick.
Late Shift was developed to allow the audience to determine the course of action that the film takes through 180 decision points within a total of four hours of material. Those choices then lead up to one of seven potential climaxes. After it was released in select theaters, audience members were able to make decisions on behalf of the protagonist by using an app on their smartphones. They could vote with the majority deciding the character’s fate. Knowing that there are seven different storylines is a smart way to bring the audience back for more via the app, where you could make the decisions and not have to follow the majority rules. The app is available to download at the App Store.
The Outbreak and Bank Run
If you want to check out two free interactive movies right now, watch SilkTricky’s The Outbreak and Bank Run. The Outbreak is a zombie movie where you control whether the protagonist survives. Do they save their friends or ditch them to save themselves? The choice is yours.
In Bank Run, you get to experience more game-like elements as you lead your protagonist through a conspiracy. It’s pretty simple: make a choice and live, or make a choice and die. Sometimes you even get to press a key on the keyboard in order to dodge an attack, just like a video game. The protagonist’s survival is literally in your hands.
Photo: The Outbreak/Bank Run (SilkTricky Production)
The Future of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure
Beyond Black Mirror, Netflix plans on developing more specials that experiment with interactive TV episodes and movies. The world’s leading streaming service isn’t the only company eyeing future interactive projects. In April, 20th Century Fox announced a partnership with Kino Industries to use its CtrlMovie technology to allow audiences to control the action during the film. Similar to the Late Shift experience, audience members will be able to vote on the path characters take in the narrative. Greg Berlanti’s Berlanti Productions is one of the producers of the film, which is based on the Choose Your Own Adventure book series of the ’80s.
Some critics argue that the interactive mode disrupts the concept and structure of a linear narrative, but what if the interactive experience is the structure and the story? Soderbergh’s desire with Mosaic was to allow viewers a completely new and unique experience. One thing’s for sure: the interactive model will only grow bigger from here.
What do you think about choose-your-own-adventure stories in movies and TV? Do you like the idea of using an app in a theater to vote on choices a character makes? Would you prefer making the decisions alone like on a Netflix show? Sound off in the comments below!