In December, Netflix surprised everyone by releasing Bandersnatch, a Black Mirror interactive movie. Viewers were required to make decisions, leading to one of a variety of endings. From the enthusiasm online, it seems like the idea has really taken off.
While some may see the format as little more than a gimmick, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that TV series and movies will become less Friends and more Bandersnatch. Our TV sets are already interactive, after all. Most of us simply use that interactivity to change channels at the moment, but Netflix have seen the potential.
TV viewership has changed, after all. It used to be that after you watched an episode, the experience stopped there. Now, you can watch a movie or binge a series on a streaming service, then switch over to YouTube and watch a video about Everything You Missed In.., then open up Spotify and play the official playlist.
In the past, there have been a few examples of mixed media television. Some shows created websites or YouTube channels for a running gag, such as Robin Sparkles music videos on How I Met Your Mother. Tie-in comic books and the music used for the score were sometimes also made available.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that fans love to create websites in honor of their favorites. The only thing that has changed about this is that while in the past, fan sites were designed to work on as many internet browsers as possible – but you would still have wildly varying results, depending on the browser used – but now it’s crucial to ensure that the site looks just as good on a laptop as it does on a smartphone as it does on a Smart TV screen.
To do this, the question of web hosting comes into play. It’s a complicated field but, in short, if you want a website, you’re going to need to either buy a URL or a domain or, if money is an issue, you can make use of the various blog hosts online. The former gives you more freedom, more customizability and much more resources, and it needn’t cost you a fortune.
All you need to do is go out and do some research by searching for cheap hosting options if you want to make your own fan-page. There are a number of factors to consider as far as cheap hosting goes. First, because it works with subdomains rather than domains, as a rule, cheap hosting won’t give you that huge bump that comes with having a domain exactly matching the subject and it’s just a bit harder for people to remember your URL. Cheap hosting also generally offers far less security and advanced options that are crucial for, say, e-commerce sites or major business pages. For fansites, these are generally not of much importance but what you should always do before signing up with any hosting service is to ensure they offer the required speeds and storage needed for your website.
Always remember, though, that unlike in the past, we do all this on the the same devices. We can browse the web, watch TV and movies, listen to music, read, and much more on every one of our devices.
Mixing It Up
Now imagine those things working together to build a universe. We don’t just have what fits into an episode or into the runtime of a movie. You can continue learning about the characters offscreen, delving into their backgrounds. Music uplifts this experience, generating the relevant emotions, scoring the experience or standing in its own right.
Twitter interactions can become an actual part of the series, rather than outside noise. Different kinds of streaming and network services can work together.
Games have been used as a way to get fans of series interacting. Mr Robot marketed a clever “messaging” app that treated users as if they were really speaking to characters. Players had to make choices of how to respond, leading to different conclusions, good or bad.
Other series have games that are connected to the show, but only in an incidental way. Pocket Mortys, for example, is a fun game based on Rick & Morty, but doesn’t enhance your experience of the show itself.
Bandersnatch takes the concept to another level. Not only is it interactive, and not only does it enhance your experience of the show, but you actually influence what plays out on your screen.
People and corporations both like to stick to winning formulas. Which is why it may take a while before the TV show format truly transforms. But with streaming giants taking the challenge on, with the relative freedom they have, there is a lot to look forward to.