Stanley was staring at his computer screen, reading an article on a website he came across during his downtime. The subject of said article was of a videogame entitled The Stanley Parable. He thought to himself that the name of the interactive entertainment that was the topic of the article was merely a coincidence and continued on. Curious to know more about The Stanley Parable, he moved onto the next paragraph.
By reading this paragraph, Stanley was made aware that The Stanley Parable wasn’t a typical game. Its titular character finds out one day that everyone has disappeared. This conundrum got the better of him and he began to explore…
Reading on, Stanley discovers that no matter how much he reads, he is not going to get the big picture. For once, the subject of the piece is not really about enjoyment or even the notion of “finishing” the game – but how each conclusion is established by choice. Stanley may have recalled a similarly interactive work called Dear Esther, in which he was led down a single rather beautifully rendered path. The Stanley Parable seems to at times mock Dear Esther because while that game was a wonderfully told story, there was no degree of choice.
Stanley began to suspect that the reason to play wasn’t because of the strength of the story as a whole, nor that the game is visually pleasing, but rather the ways in which he can disrupt it by disobeying or going off the beaten path. He is of course completely and utterly right, but it is also the consequences that arise and the strength of the narration that granted the author of the piece Stanley was reading such immense satisfaction.
It was here that in this otherwise glowing critique of something that isn’t quite a game but more of a social experiment, that Stanley encountered perhaps the sole criticism for The Stanley Parable: Finite choices. As ironic as it seemed to Stanley, the author of the article felt that as a piece of interactive entertainment that it had its limitations despite trying to convey the opposite. Some choices do involve thinking outside the box, a practice that the author really liked; but there were other times where the author had come up with something to do to try to disturb the flow and was met with silence. He did of course encounter many hidden extras, so that mostly made up the difference.
Stanley was advised to download the demo that is on Steam to get the general idea, as the author had no intention of spoiling any of the choices or consequences. The article does state that the price point might be enough to turn away some people as the game isn’t very long, which is an understandable reaction, but emphasises that if he wanted to become a videogame designer, videogame critic, or indeed have a deeper understanding of just how important choice is; he owed it to himself to play the game.
But of course he might not want to, even after clicking away from this page and carrying on with his regular life, working in a regular job, consuming the same entertainment night after night. After all, much like Stanley, all who encounter The Stanley Parable have a choice – play or do not play. Which one will you choose?