Warning: This post will contain spoilers for Black Mirror’s second episode of season three, “Playtest” as well as BioShock.
One of the more terrifying episodes from Black Mirror’s third season focuses on the horrifying idea of what the future of video games could look like.
Cooper (Wyatt Russell) is an American traveler who finds himself stuck in London, England without enough cash to get home. He resorts to using an app that pairs those looking for quick work with odd-end jobs that need to be filled fast. One of the jobs that pops up is for a video game studio in the English countryside that’s looking for people to play test its revolutionary new game.
The episode, which has a very Matrix-like vibe, explores the boundaries between reality and virtual, and like any good Black Mirror episode, it poses the question about whether our relationship to technology is inevitably consequential. A more in-depth look at the episode in question can be read here, but one of the coolest aspects of “Playtest” is how much of an homage it plays to video games through a series of Easter eggs that appear throughout.
From numerous references to Hideo Kojima and the Metal Gear Solid franchise to carefully placed Resident Evil and BioShock nods, here are some of the Easter eggs that fans have stumbled upon while watching the episode.
Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid
Toward the beginning of the episode, there’s a scene where Cooper is going through the collection of video games his date, technology journalist Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen), has in her apartment. One of the games that can be seen is a Metal Gear Solid title, and the EDGE magazine cover that Sonja hands over to Cooper when talking about visionary developer Shou Saito looks suspiciously like the cover of Official PlayStation Magazine that Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima graced in 2011. One Imgur user even made a comparison of the two, which can be seen below.
When Cooper takes the job and he’s brought to the studio where the game is being developed, he’s introduced to Saito and during their conversation, another EDGE magazine cover can be seen, this time showcasing Saito’s new game Harlech Shadow V: The Fear Within. Again, as some have pointed out online, it looks suspiciously like the PlayStation Magazine cover for Metal Gear Solid 5.
Reddit user highwayunicorn pointed out that at the end of the episode, Cooper’s last name is revealed as Redfield, a reference to either Chris or Claire Redfield. The game that Cooper has to play for the test is a survival horror experience of sorts that definitely borrows some of its vibes from Resident Evil.
At the height of Cooper’s experience in the playtest, there’s a moment where he has to open a door in order to escape, but because of the trauma he’s suffered during his play through, he’s wary. The developer and researcher who’s been with him since he first started playing, Katie (Wunmi Mosaku), takes on a nurturing tone and repeatedly asks, “Would you kindly open the door?” The “Would You kindly?” could be a definite reference to a well-remembered trigger phase in BioShock. Throughout the game, the player (as Jack) is asked by powerful businessman Frank Fontaine to aid him in his pursuits, and his requests are always bookended with the refrain.
In the “Playtest” scene, Katie uses the phrase to get Cooper to open the door even though he doesn’t want to. It’s the same kind of psychological horror that was present in BioShock, and as seen on director Dan Trachtenberg’s Twitter account, he’s obviously a fan of the series.
Both Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, a former game critic, and Trachtenberg are fans of the medium, having created a short form based on Valve’s game, Portal. When the two were working on the episode, Trachtenberg told The Verge they wanted to work in some references to the games they played growing up and titles they loved.
There are other obvious references that come up in conversation, like to Capcom’s Street Fighter series, but the episode is reportedly full of more Easter eggs just waiting to be discovered.
Black Mirror’s third season is currently available to stream on Netflix.