Interactive “choose your own adventure” movies have been around surprisingly since the 1960s. In 1967 the worlds first interactive movie “Kinoautomat” was released in Canada. It was a black comedy that could only be shown in a custom-built theatre. During the movie, a moderator would come on stage and ask the audience to choose between two scenes. They would vote by pressing a button and the chosen scene would be played on the projector. When you think about it, choosing the path the lead character takes sounds kind of fun. The question then becomes why didn’t this style of media ever take off? What was it about the “choose your own adventure” interactive style that was such a turn off to viewers.
Let’s face it, when you come home after a hard day having to fake laugh at your boss’s jokes, all you want to do is sit down, watch tv, and zone out. It’s 2019, the age of the social media app economy, making us just a little bit lazier. I can download an app on my phone and literally get anything delivered to my door or done for me.
From a dog walker app to someone that will come over and fill my car up with gas app. It’s just easier when someone else does the work for you and makes all the decisions. That’s what we love about TV and movies, we just get to sit back and enjoy what the world of entertainment has created for us. I believe that’s why the “choose your own adventure” style doesn’t work in the world of media right now. Interactive movies are like having to drive over to the studio lot, sneak past security, and tell the screenwriters how to map out a story.
A prime example of how interactive media failed is when Nintendo released the Wii. It was an interactive experience that was going to get gamers out of their chairs and let them really be able to take part in the game. But then we quickly found out that a lot of gamers don’t really want to put in the work and jump around their living room.
Xbox later would try to revamp interactive media with the Kinect, but also ran into the same problem. So the question becomes why is Netflix trying to bring this style back from the dead?
“Black Mirror” last year released its first interactive episode of “Bandersnatch” and it was met with mixed reviews. I myself watched the episode and found that it wasn’t really a “choose your own adventure” versus a trial and error process. Every time I would make the wrong choice I would have to start over from the beginning and I found this really frustrating.
It’s not even about choosing an adventure. I felt like I was just trying to guess which was the right choice so I could watch the entire episode. The issue was that every bad choice would just end the episode versus take you on a different path, hence an adventure.
Recently Netflix announced that it will be releasing another interactive movie featuring “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in 2020. Now I’m excited about this because its an interactive comedy where you could have a lot of fun choosing punchlines to jokes. Daniel Radcliffe has also signed on and I can only imagine the other celebrities that will be making cameos. I do give credit to Netflix for continuing its journey to make interactive movies and I hope they figure out the formula to hook an audience. My idea would be for Netflix to create an app to pair with interactive media movies. You use the app to schedule someone to come into your home and make all the correct decisions so you can just sit back, enjoy, and not have to use your brain power that much.