Choose Wisely With Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

The Black Mirror experience is here in spades, with a sci-fi story that's bizarre and unsettling- and all the more entertaining for it.

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Choose Wisely With Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Duncan McKee, Reporter

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I’m trying to help, Stefan. I only want what’s best for you! Now hit him with the ashtray and chop up the body.
This is a normal sort of thought while playing Black Mirror: Bandersnatch – an “interactive film” from Netflix, and the most recent episode/film in the Black Mirror anthology. In a unique twist, this story allows the viewer/player to make choices throughout and explore different pathways. These range from the simple (should I destroy his life for my entertainment?) to the deviously difficult (Karate chop or knee-to-the-groin?)
The branching path of stories begins in the 1980’s, with Stefan – a shy, 19-year-old programmer looking to adapt Bandersnatch, a massive “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, into a full computer game. Working from home for the Tuckersoft game company, he confronts everything from a tense father-son relationship to drug-fueled conspiracies to demons (literal and personal) to the viewer themself – all of which may or may not be real. Slowly, Stefan’s story begins to match that of Jerome F. Davies, the dark and twisted author of Bandersnatch. The result is a surprisingly meta and fourth-wall-breaking set of stories: as you, the player, are only given two choices at once, you will have no choice but to force Stefan into irrational and destructive choices – gradually revealing to Stefan that his choices are not his own, and leading him to question the force controlling him. Whether you play as a benevolent helper, or simply someone determined wants to see every single ending, you’ll be forced to push him into plenty of dangerous and disturbing situations. Stefan’s success revolves around earning a five-star rating for his game, and you’ll inevitably find yourself gunning for it as well. But even noble intentions like this will come with their fair share of violence, hallucinations, and antisocial behavior. Sure – you could put out an adequate, run-of-the-mill, two-and-a-half-star Bandersnatch game and have a slightly disappointed, but physically and mentally healthy Stefan. But where’s the fun in that?
On a more technical level, implementation of the choice system is fairly smooth – there are no delays or loading screens, making the video seamless. And while the two-choice limit can be frustrating in its limitation, it is important to note that Bandersnatch is a film first, and game second. Where it excels is that your choices, albeit limited, consistently have tangible effects. When you hit your first ending, you’ll be quickly hurrying back to try out alternate choices, and make more that follow them: will Stefan take the train? Will he go to therapy, or follow his gaming-nerd-idol? Or perhaps most importantly: will he have Sugar Puffs or Frosties? The choice is yours, but don’t feel too powerful – over time, you’ll begin to question if you have any more free will than than your poor puppet Stefan.
While the premise might be offputting and seem gimmicky at a quick glance, Bandersnatch manages to deliver a brand-new experience, making up for the shortcomings in its choice system by using them as part of the overall theme. The Black Mirror experience is here in spades, with a sci-fi story that’s bizarre and unsettling – and all the more entertaining for it.

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