One problem I have when playing video games is that I get too easily distracted by the shiny, which means that I’ll spend far too long trying to reach the finish line. This wouldn’t be all that bad, in the long run, except I’ve got a limited amount of time within which to spend with my games, and, partially thanks to Steam, partially thanks to my own consumer urges, I have a fairly decent pile of games that I’ve accumulated over time. The end result of this means that there are quite a few games that I’ve got that I’ve never seen the end of. Give me a game that advertises 40+ hours of gameplay, and I’ll probably hit somewhere in the vicinity of the 35 hour mark, with a good amount of game left ahead of me, but then I’ll get distracted by whatever new game has come out. I will clearly never be one of those people who complains about not having anything to play. Instead, I seem to be destined to always have too many options.
Some days, I feel bad for the developers, because they spent all of that time crafting some amazing ending sequence, and I’ll never get to see it. Not that I think the developers only made the game for me. I mean, that’s just silly when you’re looking at the profit margin.
So recently, as I am wont to do, I grabbed a new game. I’ve dipped my toes into a few as of late, but, again, new shiny thing, and I bought it faster than you can tell me to not push the red button. This new game? The Stanley Parable.
See, The Stanley Parable is a game about a man named Stanley (clever, isn’t it?). And yet, it isn’t a game. Not in the traditional sense of the wold. I’ve seen at least three of the endings, and I’ve only spent a little time in the world of Stanley. Stanley’s world, which is, in many ways, very similar to our world.
For those that aren’t familiar with the backstory to The Stanley Parable, it all started out as a game mod. Said mod became so popular that the developers recently released a larger version. That version naturally includes a demo (which isn’t really a demo… trust me, it makes sense) to welcome people into Stanley’s world. A world where Stanley is a man working at a desk, pushing buttons.
Strikes a little close to home, doesn’t it?
Anyway, part of the joy, and part of the frustration, of The Stanley Parable is that there is only the barest idea of what to do within the game. There is a narrator, who is wonderfully snarky, describing what Stanley does before he does it. However, just because the narrator tells you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to. You can do whatever you choose, within the limits of the game engine. The narrator will correct his story to adjust for you taking a different path, but he doesn’t have to be happy about it.
In a lot of ways, The Stanley Parable is a game that isn’t a game that deconstructs the notion of what video games can be, while also firmly supporting what video games are. It’s a voyage through an open-world environment, while also being a trip down a controlled path. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure game without choice, but plenty of options. And yes, if it sounds like I’m contradicting myself, it’s because I am.
Because this was a game about a man named Stanley. And that made me happy.
Now if only I could stop wandering into the broom closet.