This is the participant view of the experience, providing structure & context for the interactions they engage with. This can be an overarching theme/style of experience or a more complex narrative woven around the interactions.
A narrative is not always necessary for an experience to be engaging for participants.
Simple themes of catch, tag, hide & seek can create engaging experiences without the added detail that narrative provides.
Themes operate at a higher conceptual level, and can define the style of 'play' for participants. Establishing a theme will define the essence of what the experience will offer the participants. Themes may be:
Further developing the theme, a narrative offers a deeper level of context for participants giving an insight into the nature of the experience.
The level of detail within a narrative will depend on the complexity of your experience, and the story that you wish to tell through the work.
Narrative can assist in fleshing out the experience the participants should have:
Linear narratives flow clearly from one point to the next, providing a clear path through the experience. This style of narrative can reduce engagement or enjoyment when participants revisit the experience to start again - as it becomes known to the participant.
Non-linear narratives allow for more exploration, with multiple paths through the experience. This style allows you to build sub-narratives and subversion into the experience, rewarding participants with extra narrative (or deeper complexity) as they progress, or the more they revisit.
Subversion is a concept whereby interactions in the experience can have a good & bad outcome (rather than a clear right/wrong). The narrative build in diversions, or deceptions for when a participant provides the 'bad' response (ie. a circuitous rather than direct route to the next interaction).
Non-linear narratives have the potential to become overly complex.