Bandersnatch and the Paxman

Thoughts on gaming, naming, and interactive media

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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The author, Pax, in August 2017, posing next to the logo of a jeweler in Montréal that bears their name. Photo by Ziggy Tomcich, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Note: This post includes some spoilers for “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch”.

Recently, I developed a questionable habit of browsing the trending topics on Twitter. I generally dislike that platform, so I follow no one and only use it to post links to my own work. But the social network has taken on such outsize importance, particularly in the U.S., that I look out of curiosity to see what topics others are most talking about.

Yesterday I saw “Bandersnatch” trending, with an explanation provided by Twitter that this was an interactive episode of the Netflix show Black Mirror. As a fan of this dystopian program, I was intrigued. I’ve seen every episode of Black Mirror, though not in order. My partner Ziggy first convinced me to watch “Nosedive” after he’d seen and enjoyed it, then we both watched and loved “U.S.S. Callister” when the fourth series was released. Later I watched “San Junipero” after reading how highly acclaimed that episode was, and by that point I was hooked and continued on to watch the rest of the series.

So I sat on the couch with Ziggy, Roku remote in hand, and we dived into our first interactive television adventure. Having only ten seconds to decide on each choice, we had to make some quick negotiations. But some of the more trivial choices, such as which music to play, were obvious: I was a fan of the Thompson Twins in the 80s, and I knew Ziggy was a big fan of Tangerine Dream.

Early in the story, however, I was intrigued to see my name, Pax, come up on a computer screen. I paused and wondered aloud if the program had possibly taken this name from my Netflix profile. I figured that would be quite a bit of work to accomplish, especially since the name was also spoken aloud by more than one character, but I thought it might be possible. Just a few months before I’d watched a playthrough of a 1998 computer game that included a huge database of names, so the player’s name, even if relatively unusual, could be spoken aloud.

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch