Taking up where the last post left off, the tendency nowadays is to think of the room, the snake and the poison as a narrative, which it is not. Narratives are defined as accounts, which describe an order of events that take place in the past. What is interesting is that multiple narratives, even hundreds or thousands of possible narratives, can result from the same set up of the room, the snake and the poison. This is why we have to resist establishing a narrative before it can take place: our goal is to establish the mechanism that enables a narrative to happen ~ even if we don't know how that narrative will play out until it exists in our past.
Narratology is the study of narrative and narrative structure, and the ways that we are affected (behaviour) by our perception of those events. A player character dies as a result of the snake and this produces a reaction to the story of the character having died. Does this dying character encourage us to be more cautious when approaching rooms? Are we more cautious where snakes are concerned? Then, in the wider picture, does the sequence of events that become the narrative cause us to reconsider our will to play? Or our trust of the DM? Or the DM's certainty that this is a good way to run a campaign? These are all examples of how narrative might affect our perception.
This is why we tell stories: to evoke a response. To teach a lesson or examine a situation or develop awareness about human behaviour or encourage a better human behaviour. It is logical and rational to examine games of all types to determine what sort of effect is had on us by the way we have interacted in the past as a result of playing those games.
It does not make sense to suppose, then, that "narrative" can also describe something that hasn't happened yet. In the context of what narrative is and how narrative results, describing multiple possible future happenstances as "narrative" simply doesn't make sense within the definition of the word. That's why we use other words to describe a possible future; and why we use other words to describe a set-up, or a design, that will ultimately elicit a variety of possible futures. Those futures haven't been written yet; they haven't happened; therefore, they are not narratives. Those who think they are have gotten confused about what principles they are arguing.
That's not unusual. Very often, an individual with a flash of insight will turn a word or a phrase to a new meaning, representing something as what it is not but which it seems to reflect, in order to increase our understanding of that thing. All too often, however, this is not done very well; and for a time, a fad arises in which that phrase becomes a pursuit of thousands, even tens of thousands of scholars who are temporarily infatuated with this idea as conceptualized.
I will offer a favorite example of this: a Canadian example. Marshall McLuhan, born right in my own province, wrote a series of books about the media that, for a time, took the world by storm. His most famous quote, "the medium is the message," created a revolution in our understanding of media and its influence on the viewer.
Or rather, it seemed to do so. While there remain millions of people, academics and non-academics alike, who will rush to assert that this is true, and that McLuhan's key concepts are also true, there is one thing lacking in the whole structure.
Who has built upon this idea? Having understood that the medium is the message, what do we do with this knowledge? Where is the next scholarly goal post? For while McLuhan was certainly a breath of fresh air, he is an isolated breath where it comes to present-day discussions about media and it's influence. The phrase, "the medium is the message" is the equivalent of saying, "this is a table" or "this is a chair." Accepted. Now what?
This present faddism of narrative as the central key to role-play suffers from the same problem. Suppose we accept that, all right, role-playing is story-telling. How does that enable me to design a dungeon? Or encourage a particular behaviour in my player? Or describe how I should expect a player to respond once I have invented my story? How do I measure the effects of "story," when the story hasn't happened yet?
No one arguing for story-based role-play is addressing these questions; these are unanswerable questions in terms of "story." How can I, as a writer, ascertain with certainty what the specific reader's reaction will be to this post? I can guess that some readers will think this or that some readers will think that, but do I know what you, Joan or Jim or Jason, will think? No. Yet I need this sort of targeting tool when you, Joan or Jim or Jason, sit down at my table to play a game with me.
So let's focus on design, hm? Let's concentrate on those principles, because precepts like structure and function and observable behaviour, that has occurred in the past, can be evaluated and corrected, time and time again. Let's not waste our effort redefining a term that was never meant to describe the future.
Wonder Woman had some good features; but as a directed work, it had enormous transition flaws and considerable defects with regards to motivation, character development, goals, direction and ultimately structure. Those things can be overlooked in favour of a fun film, but the flaws exist nonetheless. I would say I expected better, but DC. Again.