Bernie Su Interview: ‘Artificial’ creator
“We try to build the audience into our show as much as we can,” says “Artificial” creator Bernie Su, “meaning that the audience gets to decide and sway a lot of plot deviations in the story.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Su above.
“Artificial,” which Su co-created with Evan Mandery, is a scripted and interactive science-fiction series about an A.I. (Tiffany Chu) learning how to be human. Because it is presented live, audiences get to directly influence the story through comments and polls, to often surprising results. It is the first original program on Twitch, which is primarily a gaming platform.
“It’s all participatory narrative,” explains Su. “We like to call this the collective narrative experience.” An at times the audience polls can have “longstanding consequences to the show.” For instance, in a scene where the A.I. meets her neighbor, a young boy, she asks the audience how she should greet him. “The choices were hug, handshake and kiss,” he recalls. “The audience chose kiss, and she kisses him. So you may think that’s inconsequential, but it’s consequential to a boy being kissed by a girl, and that changes the relationship between those two characters.”
In another instance, the A.I.’s creator (Tohoru Masamune) asks the audience which book she should read next “to further her education.” They chose Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” which is “a very progressive, very pro-feminism … pro-identity” novel. “So that influences her personality, and it changes her relationship between herself and her father, because in the book most of the women are oppressed.”
Su won two Primetime Emmys for his interactive programs “The Lizzie Bennett Diaries” and “Emma Approved,” both of which were loosely based on Jane Austen novels. He also competed at the Daytime Emmys for the show “Vanity” (Best Digital Daytime Drama Series in 2016).