GrayGhost81

Posted on Aug 20th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under review, tv, augmented reality, virtual reality, netflix


Black Mirror is a British television drama series currently hosted on Netflix in my region. The show explores future technology and its consequences. Most of the tech used in the show seems just over the horizon from our current vantage point, and is almost always based in current tech. What makes the show so interesting, and at the same time unnerving, is the believably of it all. There are a few episodes of the show that are centered around video games and today I'm going to take a look at "Playtest", which is the second episode of the third season.




In this episode, we follow Cooper, played by Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn). The episode opens with Cooper leaving his home seemingly without notice to travel the world. After a quick montage Cooper's travels, we settle with him in London, where he endeavors to have a casual sexual encounter with a stranger. The stranger whose bed he lands in is a journalist named Sonja, played by Hannah John-Kamen. Cooper discovers that Sonja is a fan of video games, but this doesn't play into the plot quite yet. A snafu with Cooper's bank account leaves him stranded, so he contacts Sonja for a place to stay and begins looking for a job to pay his way back home. He spots an ad for a company called SaitoGemu, and Sonja encourages him to take it because they are known for being on the cutting edge and she thinks she may be able to get a scoop from Cooper being there.

When Cooper arrives at SaitoGemu he is set up with an augmented reality implant and headset, but not before secretly snapping a picture of the rig for Sonya, something he was expressly instructed not to do. It is at this point in the episode where the creators' imaginations ran wild with the concept of augmented reality and virtual reality. I won't go any further into the episode itself because I don't want to spoil in any further, but as is a common theme in Black Mirror, subjective conscious reality plays a big part in the episode.

Image courtesy of Netflix

I appreciated the way video games were portrayed in this story, even if the way they were used lead to horrifying consequences for the main character. The prospect of augmented reality body modifications, whether they be implants or contact lenses is as exciting as it is scary. Sure Pokemon Go is a lot of fun, but you have to look at a phone or tablet a few feet away from your face to play it. What if the Pokemon appeared before you in space as if they were really there? Surely that would make the game more robust and immersive, but at what cost? Imagine now there is a glitch with your Pokemon Go contact lenses. You left them in too long. You see Pokemon when you are driving, trying to sleep, or working. It is easy to extrapolate the dangers of this new tech if you draw it out just a little bit. I think the creators of Black Mirror know we are on the fringes of many steps into a future from which we cannot return, and that's why I enjoyed it so much.

If you have never seen Black Mirror, I recommend it if you have even a passing interest in future tech. Each episode is its own self contained story, so there is no reason to watch them in order. Go check out "Playtest" and if you enjoy it, you can explore further episodes. If you have seen the show, which episode is your favorite?


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Comments
 
I just finished the last episodes 2 days ago and for the most part was really invested in Black Mirror. Some really cool concepts and twists throughout the series. And I totally agree with you that they treated the gaming related stuff surprisingly well. Very interested to hear your thoughts on Season 4 Episode 1 if you plan to talk about that in the future too.

Playtest wasn't one of the episodes that really struck a nerve with me as the final twist seemed a bit outlandish compared to some of the others and didn't quite have that "wow, could humanity really behave like that?" moments for me, but it was a joy to watch like 90% of the episodes have been. Hope to hear more!
 
I would be happy to cover USS Callister, Crabby! That was a high point for sure.
 
@GrayGhost81: That would be awesome
 
I love Black Mirror, but it leaves me so disturbed and scared for humanity lol. Almost every episode I could totally see happening some day. My favorite so far has been San Junipero. It's won a bunch of awards, for good reason, and is also one of the few episodes that has a happy ending.

And I don't remember the name of the episode, but there's one in season 2 about everybody giving each other social "points" that determine everything about your life, even where you can live. This is basically an actual thing now. I just heard on NPR this morning that China is experimenting with a kind of social credit score, where you get docked for things like jaywalking or not visiting your elderly parents enough. They didn't say how they plan to know about such things, but it's creepy and scary regardless.
 
Hard to pick a favorite episode from such a dark series, but if I were to pick one, it would have to be "White Bear". My runner-up fave, is probably "Shut up and Dance".
 
I'm with you, Mike! White Bear is the best one.

Travis, I also really liked San Junipero. That's probably my second fave.
 
White Bear was one of those episodes where I was like "how far are we as a society from people behaving like this?!?!" Regardless of the tech involved. Very interesting episode.

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