A playful examination of Character Context; a long-neglected aspect of game design and technological development. It's more fun than it sounds. :)

This was my entry for the Bitsy Essay Jam.

And if you liked this, please check out my other Bitsy game, Cinerarium (of Solaris).


- complete rewrite
- new introduction scene



  • Rowan Crawford



Erik Wolpaw, Deus Ex Walkthru, 2000-06-20
Kieron Gillen, New Games Journalism, 2004-03-23
Yahtzee Crowshaw, A Storytelling Crysis, 2013-03-12
Jonathan Morin, Context is Everything, 2010-01-17
Hidetaka Miyazaki, Deracine Q&A, 2018-11-05

Other Research

Adrian Chmielarz, (in article by David Houghton, 2013-11-08)
Chris Nonis, (on the two schools of RPG thought)
Darby McDevitt, Are Game(r)s Art(ists)?, 2013-03-12
Michael Lutz, The Games People Replay, 2014-04-02
Nick Dinicola, The Problem with Emergent Stories in Video Games, 2013-07-30
Terence Lee, Designing game narrative, 2014-04-02 
Tadhg Kelly, On Player Characters and Self Expression, 2012-07-06
Tom Francis, The Indie Soapbox Sessions, GDC 2012
Yahtzee Crowshaw, Context, Challenge & Catharsis, 2013-12-17
Yahtzee Crowshaw, Context, Challenge & Gratification, 2011-12-13

AuthorRowan Crawford
Made withBitsy
Tags2D, Bitsy, essay, Game Design, Pixel Art
Average sessionA few seconds
InputsKeyboard, Touchscreen


Log in with itch.io to leave a comment.

Absolutely fantastic!!

Thanks :D

The two-line high textbox + long sentences negatively impacted readability, but it was ok for a bitsy jam essay

Yeah, I see there's a hack available to extend the size of the textbox and I'm working on a post-jam-director's-cut now so I might look into that.

that was funny, informative, pretty, and provoking. really cool lil' interactions as well! and yeah, all videogame essays should be videogames! it makes it easier to pay attention to. wonderful<3

Thanks for checking it out :)

Where is the white ring?

When I go in the house, am I in the basement or is the ring really on the second floor?

When you go in the house you're on the ground floor. The white ring is up on the first floor.

Nice, neat essay and showcase packed with a lot of research! Would be interested to see what other games would go along with the -presumed- new wing of the museum along with Disco Elysium.

I do find it interesting that character context seems to primarily only come about from the game "observing" itself and the player, and the development of that context can only work within the constraints that the game itself has to think about itself (the Skyrim bucket being the most blatant example).


The limits/constraints for what the game itself can see are created by the game developers themselves, so if we're serious about improving character-context then we need to improve in-game tools that allow us to determine things like: what characters can see and have seen, what they would be thinking NOW, and they WERE thinking; and then to organise this information into logical hierarchies so that we can easily pick an action/reaction that makes sense given all that context. At that moment our gaves have no technology for any of that. Meanwhile, graphics tech has progressed to the point that we have dedicated parallel processors capable of producing nearly photorealistic visuals. That's the imbalance I was hoping to highlight here.

And as for other games, here are some that were considered but didn't make the cut:

Positive examples:
- Hades (merged it with Bastion)
- the Dark Souls / Bloodborne games do some interesting things in a particular facet of this idea
- Portal's dialogue is very cleverly reactive to what the player is doing
- Telltale's Walking Dead games appear to do it though on subsequent playthroughs you can see that they're just very cleverly designed as to give the impression

Negative Examples:
- Watch Dogs: Legion
- Tomb Raider
- Assassin's Creed 3
- any game with a waist-high obstacle that you can't jump over or a stack of objects in a corridor that you can't either pull apart or just crawl through but are instead stuck completely unless you find some random route around

Cool !

Danke :D

Oh hey, this is really good and very informative.

Gracias :)


well that was gorgeous AND informative AND nostalgic AND I’m very glad I remembered to get my coat before leaving!

Thanks :D