Remember how fun Choose-Your-Own Adventure books were? Netflix recently adopted the spirit of those books with their “Bandersnatch” episode of Black Mirror after experimenting with the concept since 2017 with kids’ shows. Using your remote, you get to decide how the Black Mirror story plays out. It’s 1984, and Stefan Butler wants to transform a choose-your-own adventure book into a video game. As the viewer, you get to choose Stefan’s choices, whether it’s if he answers “yes” or “no” to a question, what person he chooses to follow, if he takes his pills or not, and so on. The quickest path ends at just 40 minutes, while the average playthrough takes 90 minutes. There are five main endings with variations.
Some people loved “Bandersnatch,” even going so far as to map out their choices and try to get as many varied endings as possible. Others weren’t as impressed. Criticisms included limited freedom and gimmicky storytelling. A Vermont publisher that produces choose-your-own adventure books is even suing Netflix, saying they infringed on the trademark and damaged the brand by producing such a dark, often gruesome story . Regardless, Netflix is forging ahead with new programming ideas. They even created a Branch manager system that makes it easier to create interactive content.
The newest program? A show called “You vs. Wild,” starring Bear Grylls. It’s set to debut on April 10, and features Bear Grylls adventuring around the world, but this time, the viewer is in charge of his decisions. In the trailer, Bear finds himself on a steep cliff, and viewers are given the option of “climb up” or “jump down.” It is a controlled environment for safety reasons – it’s not like viewers are going to watch Bear seriously injure himself – but it’s still a fun concept that may perform really well. We’ll have to wait until April to know for sure.