Netflix is developing a new form of interactive storytelling technology that will allow viewers to control how a TV series unfolds. It is only at an experimental stage at the moment, but the company plans to run a trial later this year based around choose-your-own-adventure shows for children. If successful, the format could be introduced to programmes aimed at more mature audiences.
According to one source, these ‘branch narratives’ require the viewer to make choices as they watch: “All the content will be there, and then people will have to get through it in different ways.” It’s unclear at this stage whether this will be implemented in future season of current shows, or whether it will be exclusive to new productions created for specifically with this new technology in mind.
When popular shows reach their end, the pressure for the ending to meet certain expectations often leads to dissatisfaction, with fans often having different ideas about how a story should be wrapped up. Efforts to surprise audiences aren’t always successful, and this is presumably what alternate endings will look to provide a solution to.
As well as fundamentally changing the viewing experience, this new format could present writers and directors with more creative options. Video games have adopted more of a similar decision-based system of gameplay in recent years, and it’s possible that interactivity in television could bring these two media closer together.
But while literally placing the power in the hands of the consumer is an attractive prospect, it may detract from the creators’ ability to express their ideas in a definitive way. As controversial as it may be, the final episode of The Sopranos was a choice made by an artist with a clear vision for what he thought the finale should be. Though the outcome of this experimental new format remains to be seen, it certainly raises some interesting questions for now.
Would you want the power to control a show’s storyline? Have your say @LWLies
Published 7 Mar 2017
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