Bandersnatch: a tipping point for games in 2019?

The interactive fiction of the latest Black Mirror episode is a thrilling indication of the direction games could take

A new episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror debuted on Netflix just before the new year. Unlike most previous examples, Bandersnatch is not a cautionary tale of how current technologies might evolve to further ruin our hearts, minds and communities. It is, rather, a period piece set in early-1980s Britain, when young video-game programmers were becoming millionaires selling their games in WH Smith. Unlike all previous Black Mirror episodes, Bandersnatch is a nonlinear film that allows the viewer to steer the plot using simple A/B choices at key moments in the drama. Like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the period, these choices range from the mundane (“which cereal would you like for breakfast?”) to the life-imperilling, and each path winds to one of a number of possible endings.

That Netflix should choose to invest in the required technology, then use it with one of its prestige shows is, regardless of how you judge the results, thrilling, and demonstrates that games still have the capacity to enter new rooms of culture to woo those who might otherwise reject the form. Bandersnatch may even prove a tipping point for interactive fiction. This year also promises Telling Lies, a pseudo-sequel to Her Story, one of the best games of the genre to date, which also uses filmed footage (clips of police interview tapes) to reshuffle the narrative in beguiling ways.

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To woo China, Apple must learn that it’s not in California any more

Developing markets offer growth: but the firm’s phones must become cheaper and its services must compete with local rivals

After years of boom, Apple looks set for a rockier road in 2019 – partly through faults of its own and partly through social and economic factors that are affecting all the big smartphone manufacturers.

The company’s chief executive, Tim Cook, laid the blame for a shock cut in sales forecasts – and the subsequent share price tumble – on the economic downturn in China. A convenient excuse, but far from the whole picture.

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