For this assignment, I did Quote Me On That, where we had to, “Share a quote (or quotes) from a reading you’ve done and explain what interests you about it.” Hey! we had two reading options this week, how about that. I already talked about how I really like the quote, “stories decode and encode,” from THE NEW DIGITAL STORYTELLING: Creating Narratives with New Media in my post The 80s are alive! ALIVE! Since I’ve already said what I wanted to say with that pearl-of-wisdom, I’ll discuss another quote I like from the other reading, I link, therefore I am.
can a story be a labyrinth, or should it be the thread that leads us through?Zacharias Szumer
OK, so this is really more of a question than a pearl-of-wisdom, but I think it’s still worth delving into.
According to the author from, I link, therefore I am, we should all be skeptical about jumping on board the labyrinth train. I’m not sure what all the hesitation is about- If David Bowie magically appeared, stole my baby brother, and forced me to navigate a surreal Labyrinth of puzzles and muppets, I’d be pretty ecstatic.
While I am (partially) joking, I think that this is actually a good example of an 80’s movie that would work well with interactive media. Picture it: Goblin King Jareth makes you an offer you can’t refuse. You hate being stuck on babysitting duty, and Jareth kindly tells you that he’ll make all your dreams come true and take care of the whole drooling infant situation. What do you choose? Do you take his offer? (Of course you do). Instantly regretting your decision to hit “Yes, take my baby bro away” on the Netflix pop-up screen, you now have precisely 13 hours to solve Jareth’s labyrinth and find baby bro before he is turned into a goblin forever. Sounds fun, right?
I of course am referring to the Black Mirror ‘Bandersnatch‘ episode where viewers got to make choices like the ones I described. Some of the choices were big, like ‘Yes’/’No’ to a job offer, and others were trivial, like ‘This’/That’ to the type of cereal that the main character ate. But here’s what made ‘Bandersnatch’ truly addictive: depending on what you made poor Stefan Butler do, the resulting end scenario would be different. The myriad of choices also resulted in many variances of the same scene, which led to a massive Easter egg hunt. The branching paths and extra scenes gave viewers a reason to watch ‘Bandersnatch’ over and over again, making a 90 minute episode stretch out into 2.5 or more hours. It’s an especially immersive experience if you’re viewing the show with a friend:
“OK, which one do we pick? Hurry! Choose”
“Ahhh, OK, have him ‘Pick up Book'”
*Stefan Picks up Book*
“What? How did you get that ending? I’ve never seen this before!”
And so on. This kind of viewing interactivity turns mindless zombie binge watching into a fun-for-the-whole-family event.
But the question of “can a story be a labyrinth, or should it be the thread that leads us through?” is one that is misguided. It’s a bit like asking, can a Disney story be live-action, or should it be animated? The obvious answer is that there is reason to have it both ways! Having an interactive story like ‘Bandersnatch’ makes sense for ‘Bandersnatch.’ The creators wanted to make a story about a programmer who loses control. And what better way for them to achieve that than to have the viewers literally control him. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that interactive viewing will work, or should work, with all stories. Because sometimes you feel like watching your favorite blue genie as the real-life actor, Will Smith, and other times you just want to curl up to the comforting animated voice of the beloved Robin Williams (may he rest in peace). J/K, Robin Williams Genie is the only true Genie.
The author goes on to say that the interactivity of ‘Bandersnatch’ is akin to the hypertext fiction stories of the 80’s-90’s, to which he then attempts to compare the success of the two mediums. But the two are not comparable. ‘Bandersnatch’ is truly immersive; a simple two-choice menu lets viewers be a part of the story without making them work too hard to watch more story. A hypertext story is a patchwork of links and branches and extraneous information that overloads the reader. And if I’ve learned anything from the wonderful world of UX Design and their stories of woe, it’s that clicking on stuff is work. (Fun-fact: Most users will achieve their website goal with as few clicks as possible, even if more clicks would have resulted in better information).
But Melody, you’ve been littering your posts with hyperlinks! True. And most readers will not click on them. But for those who do, they’ll either discover more information on the underlined word, or they will be directed to a humorous video, sound, GIF, or image that relates to the word in some way. The creators of ‘Bandersnatch’ went into the episode’s production knowing that the average viewer wouldn’t even see all of the scenes they shot, but for the dedicated few, it was an extra treat. This is how I believe blogging should be: a story that threads the reader through with the option of it being a labyrinth.
The labyrinthine narrative of ‘Bandersnatch’ was a huge success, and one that doesn’t have to be just a passing fad. This style of choose-your-own adventure storytelling is one that I think we’ll be seeing more of in the future. Will it replace traditional storytelling? Probably not. Will it be an addition to traditional storytelling? I would put my money on ‘yes.’ And to refute the end quote from I link, therefore I am, that asserts, “For now, I think it’s best to avoid the futile field of cartography for the rapidly shifting terrain of digital media,” I’ll add my own:
“For now, I think it’s best to embrace the prospective field of cartography because the rapidly shifting terrain of digital media affords us the opportunity to do so.”