The act of storytelling & genre
Stories are an interactive activity; we tell each other stories. Even if we’re alone, as a child with an imaginary friend or person in prayer, the story still came from or is based on an interaction, nothing springs from the void.
Narratives are thus by definition collaborative activities, a game-based experience, in theory, can therefore not exist without a story. The purpose of the genre then is to create a shorthand for the players. It increases the connectivity between the individual collaborators and the story in which they are taking part. Essentially accelerating the buy-in and collaboration within any experience.
Genre & variation
Genre not only aids in accelerating collaboration, but it also offers variation when implementing narratives. The narrative is the foundation upon which the genre scaffold is placed or attached. This foundation details what actions will occur and how the story will unfold, the scaffold then can, therefore, be changed as many times as needed, for whatever purpose.
Cinematic examples of this are the foundation of a Love story. Be it a family love story, between siblings or two strangers, the basic concept of love is there. The genre though can be changed repeatedly. From a science-fiction love story variation such as Passengers to a true-story variation like Titanic or an animated fantasy film like Frozen. Each is essentially a love story, but each is new and somewhat different.
Game examples with a “save the world” foundation are Legend of Zelda for high-fantasy, or Wolfenstein for a sci-fi war variation. In table-top RPG’s there is the collaborative virus battle of Pandemic or the team-oriented, and mind-bending experience of Call of Cthulu. Each revolves around saving the world in way, but each one is very different.
Every genre variation in these examples gives the players a recognisable basis but takes place in a different world with different rules, cultures, customs and aspects to explore. Modern players are largely familiar with the majority of genre’s and therefore know what to expect, but the variations are still different enough to make each experience unique.
The benefit of implementing a genre with a narrative basis is that combined they offer the chance for the meaning and value of the story to be depicted differently each time. When using a game-based experience, learning objectives can therefore be reused and reinforced thanks to the variety of genres. Thereby allowing a level repetition that doesn’t become tedious, and strengthens the learning effectively, through said repetition.