Netflix rolled out its new “Play Something” feature this week, a shuffle play option for when you have thousands of TV shows and movies at your fingertips and no idea what to watch.
Sure, it’s a first-world problem. But as a routine sufferer of decision paralysis, I’ve been hoping for something like this for what feels like forever. At the end of a long day when my brain is slowly leaking out my ears and I’m just looking for some mindless entertainment to unwind for a bit, I’d offload the choice of what to watch onto an algorithm in a heartbeat.
Netflix’s new feature does just that, algorithmically generating content suggestions based on user habits. Upon opening the Netflix app, you’ll now come across a Play Something button in a few places (on the navigation menu, beneath your profile picture, and on the tenth row of the homepage). Click it, and Netflix will bring up what it reckons you’ll like, whether that be something new, a series or film you’ve had on your watchlist, a title you’re already watching, or something you started a while back but never finished.
If for whatever reason Netflix misses the mark with its pick, you can skip to another suggestion with the Play Something Else option. The feature also has full text-to-speech support for those that use screen-readers.
Netflix has had this in the works for a hot minute. Last September, the company confirmed it was testing a shuffle function, then going by the name “Shuffle Play,” among certain users worldwide. It ran similar tests targeted specifically at TV shows in April that same year, letting users roll the dice on a random episode to watch.
Obviously, Netflix’s goal with any new feature it adds is to keep users glued to its platform for as long as possible. Endlessly scrolling through options trying to figure out what to watch can be frustrating, and frustrated users are more likely to start wondering why they’re even keeping their subscription in the first place (especially given the ballooning number of alternative options). It’s in Netflix’s best interest to figure out how to quickly connect users with content they’ll actually want to watch.
Nonetheless, for those of us often stricken with decision paralysis, this Play Something feature is a welcome tool that helps put a near-nightly dilemma to rest.