Are Interactive Stories the Future of Entertainment?
The popularity of interactive, choose your own adventure narratives in shows and movies is increasing. It's hardly revolutionary, since books and games paved the way for that type of interactivity.
There are countless examples of both books and games where you make the decisions, steer the story, and decide on the ending. When done well, it's wonderfully entertaining.
Is the choose your own adventure format likely to replace passive entertainment? Or is it in its infancy, and still has a long way to go? We're going to explore this and more.
What Are Choose Your Own Adventures?
Choose your own adventures place you in direct control of how the story progresses.
Have you ever watched a show or movie and seen the protagonist face a choice and wonder which is the best course for them? Well, in the choose your own adventure format, you'd be responsible for making that decision.
Every time a character faces a conundrum, you solve it and pick the direction. Then, based on what you select, the story progresses in a specific way.
Some choose your own adventure features have multiple spots where you have to make a choice; because of the splits, there are multiple potential endings.
These types of interactive movies put you in the driver's seat and let you control the storyline.
How Do Different Mediums Approach Interactivity?
The choose your own adventure format isn't a new concept. It's been around for a while.
Many children's TV shows, like Dora the Explorer, offer a more rudimentary form of interactivity for young kids.
The person on screen asks a question and then waits in silence for a while, presuming the children watching are answering. Then, after some time has passed, they do the right thing regardless.
That's not truly a choose your own adventure type story, since you don't really impact the character. But it's still a great gateway into introducing interactivity to young children.
What about other mediums? There are many books that let you steer the protagonist and decide their story. These books have been around for decades, like 1979's The Cave of Time. Goosebumps is another option, for fans of horror. Plus, there's the Choose Your Own Adventure books, which is where the genre takes its name from.
Games have also been early adopters of the format. Some games like to make their storylines as interactive as possible. They put you in charge of the characters and their fate. In some, you could enjoy a different story every time you play.
Titles like The Walking Dead, Firewatch, Life Is Strange, Until Dawn, and Detroit: Become Human are among the best examples of interactive choose your own adventure games.
What Interactive Content Do Streaming Services Offer?
Netflix has quite a few interactive titles that ask you to make the decisions for the protagonists.
The first interactive content for adults on Netflix was Black Mirror's episode Bandersnatch. It required you to choose which way the different characters went, with decisions set against a timer. The episode came with several potential endings, and the format was an absolute hit.
Since then, there have been other Netflix features that let you shape the story, like You vs. Wild and Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal? You can find a complete list of the interactive titles available on Netflix's help page.
If you select a Netflix title and it has a red badge with a spark, then you know it's interactive.
Netflix isn't the only streaming service that offers interactive content. For example, YouTube has A Heist with Markiplier and Eko has several interactive titles, like Wizard School Dropout and Possibilia.
Hulu chose to bank on virtual reality technology with its interactive comedy series called Door No. 1. Through a VR headset, the story places you in the shoes of the protagonist and lets you shape his ten-year high school reunion experience.
What Gear Do You Need to Enjoy Interactive Entertainment?
It depends. With some interactive features, you need only a remote. For others, you may need an entire VR set.
As stated, Hulu's show Door No. 1 relies on virtual reality technology, so you need a VR headset. With Netflix, however, it's much simpler. It supports an entire array of devices, like smart TVs and phones; all you need to make your choices is your remote or your finger.
Most services that offer interactive content follow Netflix's example of simplicity and only require you to use a touchscreen or a remote to select your choice.
What Does the Future Hold for Interactive Entertainment?
Most services that offer interactive content keep everything pretty basic, so you don't need much to participate. That's great, as it's inclusive. But that doesn't mean we can't hold out hope for improvement.
Implementing VR in interactive features can be such a blast. You can feel completely immersed in what you're doing, and that's the whole point of interactivity. If you add to the experience by using VR sets, speakers, cameras, and more, you can only improve upon it.
Hopefully, as technology develops and VR becomes more accessible to the average person, so will the current format.
Are Choose Your Own Adventures the Better Form of Entertainment?
When it comes to games, it can be a better experience to play through a story when you know that every choice you make has weight and can bring you to an entirely different ending. Not to mention, you can compare endings with your friends, which leads to fun discussions.
As for movies and shows, it's still a long way away from being the better form of entertainment. Having the power to steer characters in any direction you choose is undoubtedly entertaining, but is it more entertaining than just relaxing on the couch and enjoying the sole story the writer intended?
These interactive stories keep you on your toes as you don't know when you'll have to make a choice, and since you usually get timed, you have to pay close attention. That can be fun, if you're in the mood for it.
As it stands now, perhaps passive viewing wins. That can certainly change if VR becomes more accessible and gets implemented into interactive stories, since it opens up a whole new world of possibility.
Besides, who wouldn't want to be a part of the story instead of simply observing it?