Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Web Secret 554: Bandersnatch

I remember the early "choose your own adventure" video games of the 1980s.

Laborious and slow, black and white and pixelated, it could take half an hour to move a primitive character down a black corridor. You answered questions like: "Does Igor go left or right" by typing in "R-I-G-H-T."

So how does 30 years of technological advances impact an early video game?

You get Bandersnatch, the first ever interactive film. Thank you, Netflix.

Set in the 1980s, Bandersnatch centers on Stefan, an ambitious video game developer. Inspired by his favorite childhood choose your own adventure novel, Bandersnatch, Stefan sets out to create an innovative text-based game where the player's choices influence how the story unfolds.

Every so often, as you watch the film, a text field appears and you have what feels like 15 seconds to make a decision. Does Stephen eat Frosties cereal or the other kind? Does he spill tea on his computer or does he run out of the room? Does he bury the dead body or chop it up? You click on your choice. And your decision gets played out.

Now here is what is truly amazing: the film never stops while you make your selection, and whatever you decide unfolds seamlessly. I was blown away by the sheer technology of it.

The movie typically runs for about 90 minutes, depending on the choices you make at the plot's branching points. Bandersnatch has more than 1 trillion possible permutations of its story, but the piece has "five main endings" that viewers can eventually end up with.

Play Bandersnatch and you are experiencing the future.

Right now.

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