For a lot of people Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which debuted on Netflix on December 28, 2018, will be their first exposure to interactive fiction. The story follows Stefan Butler, a video game developer in 1984, as he tries to adapt a choose-your-own-adventure book into a game. It can very easily, depending on your choices, go down the typical Black Mirror path of bleakness and despair; the creators say there are at least five different endings. (I played it and got a rather light ending; this was my first exposure to the Black Mirror series.)
So if your appetite is piqued by this interactive episode and you want to get into gaming and/or interactive storytelling, here are some of my personal recommendations.
+ Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Steam/Xbox), developed by Bioware, is a classic of this genre. Set long before the Star Wars films, the game adapts to the choices you make as a Jedi or a Sith in an extremely groundbreaking and exciting way. It’s a fresh take on the Star Wars universe that, despite its admittedly dated graphics, is still worth recommending sixteen years after it released. Some people consider it the best Star Wars game ever made.
+ Telltale Games’s The Walking Dead (PC/Xbox/PS4/PS3/mobile), based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series, is closest to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch in its structure and accessibility. You play as Lee Everett, a man trying to survive Georgia’s zombie apocalypse, while trying to care for an orphaned girl named Clementine. The choices are never easy and coupled with the grim world of the game it makes for an emotionally draining but ultimately worthwhile experience.
+ If you want something closer to The Walking Dead in tone, Bethesda’s Fallout series (PC/Xbox/PlayStation) might scratch that itch. Set in a post-apocalyptic United States, the series boasts many branching paths in its main story and sidequests—no two people will play Fallout the exact same way. Unlike Telltale’s The Walking Dead, there are many moments of levity, humor and well-written companions in your journey through the wasteland.
Hopefully these suggestions will whet your appetite for more interactive fiction. Have fun and enjoy!