Black Mirror is a creepy show even when you know you're not a part of it. Now imagine making decisions that could lead to the main character's success or failure. That could add a whole new layer of fearful responsibility to the experience.
Giving this to viewers is exactly what Netflix plans to do. According to Bloomberg, the show, "famous for exploring the social implications of technology," will push those implications a step further with a choose-your-own-adventure style episode.
The show's upcoming fifth season is expected to be released in December, which anonymous sources claim will contain the alleged choose-your-own-adventure story. Though this isn't Netflix's first foray into the genre, it will be their first major formatting experiment on a highly-rated show for adults.
Netflix tried out choose-your-own-adventure storytelling in the animated children's program Puss in Book, where viewers were asked in the first few minutes of the program whether they wanted Puss to fight a "god or a tree." After watching, viewers could opt to continue or go back and switch their decision.
Many see the streaming service's foray into experimental entertainment as a sign of gaming culture's influence. Not only does watching interactive TV shows seem eerily similar to video games, but the company has also partnered with several video game producers to create new series. Notably, Netflix has partnered with Telltale Games to produce a Minecraft television series.
Though some fans are excited by the prospect of taking part in the stories they watch, there are still some questions behind the scenes as to appropriate pay and division of labor. Alternate actions, timelines, and, ultimately, endings means additional writing, shooting, and post-production. Writers and producers will obviously want additional compensation for their additional work, but just how much is appropriate will have to be negotiated.
Fans were both excited and scared for the upcoming experiment.
Some, however, weren't as thrilled.
Steven Soderbergh's Mosaic on HBO proved that, even if only on smart phones, interactive TV programs were possible. Now, with the widespread availability of high-speed internet and touchscreens, Jim Spare, "the chief operating officer of Eko, a company that produces interactive shows," believes the era of choose-your-own-adventure is approaching:
The time is right for interactive TV to become a mainstream experience.
Is this true? Perhaps the choose-your-own-adventure episode of Black Mirror will give us the answer.