Game Writer’s Dilemma: Context vs. Story
Narrative is a fictional, cohesive universe made up a mythology of characters and settings bolstered by a story (but often a series of stories), theme, and tone. Story depicts a character’s journey that, through a series of escalating challenges and accomplishments, results in that character’s self-discovery. It is part of a narrative, but, by itself, is not. Context is descriptive, light information that provides a player with justification as to why he/she is about to take on a certain task or pursue a certain goal. It is also filler or casual stimuli, like ambient dialogue, that provide authenticity to a world.
There is an industry-wide confusion over the role of narrative in games. Often times, it is confused with context. This entry will define “narrative,” “story,” and “context” and provide how their applications in the game experience are distinct from one another.