Pet Please #126: Context

I was recently listening to a podcast about a board game I’m somewhat unfamiliar with. There were three podcast hosts, and several times throughout the review, one of the podcasters mentioned a specific character in the game. They mentioned the character by name, chortling about their love/hate relationship the character, but they didn’t explain anything else. It was essentially an inside joke to anyone who had played the game.

20 minutes or so into the podcast, one of the other hosts mentioned this character for the first time, and instead of talking about them as if the podcast audience was in on the joke, they took 10 seconds to explain the character’s function.

Suddenly everything made sense. Even though I hadn’t played the game, I was in on the joke. The second host had provided context.

I love context, especially when people give it freely at the right time in an effort to include people. Like, if you’re at a dinner party with some close friends and some not-so-close friends–it’s great when the close friends tell stories and ask questions in a way that includes everyone at the table.

Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to it, but I often recognize when people forget to give context, and I try to catch up the other people so they know what the heck the person is talking about. And I notice when people are aware of the disparity of information and provide context up front–it’s a very attractive quality.

This happens both games in the board game world quite a bit. Podcasts are one example, but I also see it on BoardGameGeek–a major gaming website–where people will ask a question like, “Does the Horticulturist help all players or just opponents?” There’s nothing else, just that.

So whenever a person gives context, I think it’s awesome. Like, if they say what the Horticulturist is (a summer visitor card in Viticulture) and post the text on the card, I think that’s great. That way people don’t have to go digging through their copy of the game to answer the question.

Context. It’s the best.