Personal-Contextual Storytelling

Reading through Jimmy Maher’s Interactive Fiction articles reminded me of my first encounter with the master storytellers as a teenage boy. Since then, I’ve never experienced games as immersive as theirs.

Looking back though, typing away for hours on end wouldn’t be something I’d do today anyway. Back then, there was no internet that distracted me, no job to do, no son to watch growing up. Back then, the world was different.

But It’s easy to blame the world for changes in reception of content. So, yeah, a couple of years ago people read our website on their shitty PCs. Today, they’re using their iPhones. So we need to adapt the content to this new world, right? Right?

Personal Context is what makes a good story great: External context, the things you can hardly change, and personal context, which you can. Remember playing Mario on Christmas morning and missing lunch, dinner and bedtime? Firing up an emulator on your Raspberry Pi might be cool, and will probably bring back much of your memories, but the original context is gone, never to return again.

What remains are mere memories of these original contexts. Tapping commands into Planetfall on my iPad is different to listening to the whirring sounds of my old Atari’s floppy disk in so many respects. The difference that really counts, though, is the change I have gone through.

Readers, watchers, listeners live in a world of ever-changing contexts, and it’s easy to adapt content to those contexts because they are visible to the eye of the content strategist, creator or governor.

Master storytellers tap into their recipients’ personal contexts and take them on magical journeys. A great story is the same for every reader – and eminently different for each.