On contextual storytelling, Dark Souls, and Don’t Starve

For my darling wife Rachel on her 26th birthday. 

Some things are better left unsaid. Nothing is more true when it comes to the art of storytelling and the ability of a tale to not reveal all of the cards being held. The concept of letting a viewer or reader find their own way through a story or performance, left to their own devices to piece together plot, motive, and context is one of the oldest and most important fundamentals of storytelling.

Video games in the current era are getting in on the act, using the environment, items, actions, and sometimes a lack thereof all three in order to tell a story without telling the story.

Whether it’s a ragged doll in Dark Souls, a wrong turn down a stairwell in Bioshock Infinite, or the discovery of what beard hair and animal manure can do in Don’t Starve, it’s all part of contextual storytelling that allows players to find as much or as little of the details as they want.

Continue reading