Imagine you had the ability to make Frank Underwood murder one of his rivals, or to let them live. What if you were the one controlling the Demogorgon in Stranger Things? It’s a hypothetical that could become a reality if Netflix’s latest innovation takes off.
On Tuesday, the streaming giant unveiled the first interactive episodes of its children series Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale, which lets viewers decide the fate of its main character by selecting one of two options at a specific narrative crossroads. Think Choose Your Own Adventure for the iPad generation.
For now, Netflix has zeroed in on its children’s content to test the interactive waters. “Kids are already talking to the screen,” Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, Netflix’s director of product innovation, told The Verge. “They’re touching every screen. They think everything is interactive.”
Two other kids shows—Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile and Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout—will also experiment with the technology, which as of now is only available on Roku devices, game consoles and iOS devices.
But the implications of Netflix’s latest innovation could stretch far beyond how we consume content. It could also change the way stories are told. With Netflix able to monitor what choices we make for our characters, it could theoretically craft stories catered to our specific tastes.
As the streaming wars ramp up, Netflix is looking for any edge to stay on top. It’s ironic that the entertainment industry’s leading innovator had to turn to the past to find it.