Be a part of the narrative: How audiences are introduced to the “free choice dilemma” in the interactive film Bandersnatch


Interactive narrative
Video games
Free choice
Author's control
Author-Audience Relationship

How to Cite

Zhang, H. “Be a Part of the Narrative: How Audiences Are Introduced to the ‘free Choice dilemma’ in the Interactive Film Bandersnatch”. Mutual Images Journal, no. 11, Dec. 2023, pp. 85-107, doi:10.32926/2023.11.6.


The first major interactive film on Netflix with live-action scenes was Bandersnatch, released in December 2018. Bandersnatch offers viewers a unique viewing experience distinct from traditional cinema, as it provides the viewer with multiple choices within the narrative trajectory. Digital interactive media technologies have become increasingly popular due to public demand for interactive engagement and a democratisation of text control. There is a social desire to deprive the author of total control over the story; to co-create stories using imagination while adhering to formal limitations and structures; to play with the text as an incomplete form; for the ability to rearrange the story’s order, alter its quality, and other such things. These meet the audience-creative user’s needs and satisfaction (Cover, 2004). Where personal emotions can be invested and free choice can be exercised in cyberspace, the emergence of interactivity as a kind of audience engagement is a robust culturally rooted desire. This article attempts to understand and analyse the uses and gratifications experienced by the audience during the interactive viewing process. However, digital participation proves to have limitations. Through a case study of the interactive film Bandersnatch, this paper explores how the interactivity and the features of video games can be used to give users so-called “free choice,” but that can actually be frustrating and ultimately offer only the illusion that the audience has any significant control over the story. In the end, the decisions made by the audience offer some relevant affordances to the interactive user but eventually proceed to reinforce the ideological control from the production team.
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Copyright (c) 2024 Hanxue Zhang