The bleed between storytelling formats and genres never feels more present than when Netflix enters the conversation, especially considering the impact of new technologies.
As initially reported by TechRadar, Netflix will release “Minecraft: Story Mode” this fall, a licensed five-episode series set in the world of the blockbuster video game. In addition, Netflix is working with the game company Telltale to create a game set in the world of “Stranger Things.”
However, this does not mean Netflix is adding games to its platform. While “Minecraft: Story Mode” will be available on the streaming giant, it’s an “interactive narrative” along the lines of recent Netflix experiments like “Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout.” Meanwhile, the “Stranger Things” game will be launched on the Telltale platform “at a later date,” per a Netflix representative.
While TechRadar initially reported Netflix would be adding games to the service, a Netflix representative clarified that this was not the case, stating via email, “We don’t have any plans to get into gaming. There’s a broad spectrum of entertainment available today. Games have become increasingly cinematic, but unlike gaming, there’s no winners or losers in these types of stories, and we view it as interactive narrative storytelling on our service.”
As mentioned, this type of storytelling has been in development at Netflix for a while. Earlier this year, IndieWire spoke with “Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout” executive producers Chris “Doc” Wyatt and Kevin Burke about their own choose-your-own-adventure narrative experiment, and they said the idea came during a story meeting with Netflix, which was already developing the technology.
“There’s a lot of story-telling potential in this kind of thing,” Wyatt said. “What [Netflix] was saying to us when we were working on developing this, they feel like when you’re watching the show, you’re sitting on the back of your seat. You’re all the way relaxed sitting on the back of your seat. When you’re playing a video game, and you’re actively engaged with a shooter, you’re on the very edge of your seat sort of constantly. What they wanted to do with this was be in the middle. You’re not relaxed, you’re not leaning forward on the edge of your seat. You’re sort of halfway between those experiences.”
While the projects being developed with Telltale Games might technically be considered games, that choice of partners is telling, given that the Telltale Games format is actually a lot closer to a choose-your-own-adventure narrative than a traditional shoot-’em-up. That could be why its critically acclaimed adaptations of “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” have worked in the past, and why a “Stranger Things” adaptation sounds like a good fit.
It’s the continuation of the media story we’ve been seeing slowly play out over the past few years: However you might try to define a piece of content, it just keeps getting more and more complicated.