A brief introduction

In December 2018, Netflix has released Black Mirror, which is an interactive movie. The concept of interactive storytelling has been around since the 90s. Many conferences held upon said subjects, which were:

  • In 1990, the Workshop on Interactive Fiction & Synthetic Realities
  • In 1995, Interactive Story Systems: Plot & Character
  • In 1996, the AAAI Workshop on AI and Entertainment
  • In 1996, Lifelike Computer Characters

In this concept, the storyline is not predetermined. Authors create the theme setting, characters and situation which the narrative will present. However, it is user will be the one who experiences a unique story based on their own choices.

Videos are more attractive other contents such as images or texts. Audience often find videos are more engaging. However, the downside is that users can only watch and comprehend the predetermined playback content. Most of the time, users can't feedback or change the plot as they want it to be.

When Netflix introduce Black Mirror thus comes a new way to experience movies. To be more precise, the audience weren't interact with the whole film, rather than taking a part of the action, deciding the storyline.

Black Mirror - where result depend on your making decision

In each decision-making scene, users can make choices for characters and shaping the story as they wish. Each choice leads to a different adventure so users can watch the movie over and see a new story each time. There are “checkpoints” which can changes the plot of the movie entirely. Those are keys on which you make a decision, your storyline is shaped. The protagonist can be killed, reveal the truth or stop the crime, all depends on your decisions in your clicks.

Story telling Strategy

Black Mirror decision tree - Source from Reddit

There are three components forming the architecture of an interactive system: a drama manager, a user model and an agents model. The Drama Manager guides the narrative by searching and implementing story events, provide new information and reconcile conflicting patterns and work with the agents model to select a suitable story for the character. Meanwhile, audience choices will be tracked by the user model so that the drama manager and agent model can collaborate with the story they want to make.

There are also two potential strategies when developing a decision tree.

First of all, the decision tree creator should approach and encourage users making choices to form a logical plot. Emerging conduct can form a story-like behavior with sufficiently complex systems regardless of the decision of the users.

Second of all, author should collect enough information to create a library of story components. These library will help combining response and storyline smoothly when audience make action. While this strategy cost much larger on initial investment, it is easier to narrate a generalize story with less impact on each decision.

Content of future

In general, Netflix interactive movie: Black Mirror is a good example of connecting audience with content. We hope to see more of interactive contents on mobile phone, cinema, VR, etc. It is fascinating to see interactive scripts, make your own decision and experience your own world on those platforms of future.