12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:2

“It’s more like…layers on top of reality”

On the eighth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…proof that video games are evil

Not being a fan of video games at all, the second episode of Black Mirror’s third series Playtest properly creeped me out with its vision of experimental augmented reality games gone wrong. Wyatt Russell’s US tourist Cooper is stranded in London when his credit card details are stolen and to earn a quick buck to pay for his flight home, he signs up to a video game trial thinking nothing could go wrong…

But though the technology that the company SaitoGemu uses initially seems innocuous as in a 3D version of Whack-A-Mole, the non-disclosure agreement and rights’ waiver that he signed come into play with the new game they want to test. Using a small device that has been drilled into his head, this technology is designed to probe the brain for the specific things that make you scared and convert them into a personalised haunted house-type experience. What could possibly go wrong?

As has become something of the norm in Black Mirror, the very nature of reality is subjective beyond belief but Brooker and director Dan Trachtenberg somehow manage to keep us guessing throughout the entire episode, keeping us queasily on edge in what is a brilliant piece of horror TV. Russell’s oafish but likable Cooper is a strong lead and there’s great work from Wunmi Mosaku as the company rep taking him through the trial, whose murky motives add to the complexity. Superbly creepy af.


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