The Stanley Parable – As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time. All feedback on this concept is welcome.

A substantial portion of our lives are spent sat in front of a computer screen. We’re both doing that now, right?

We’re reliant on technology for our social interactions and arrangements, but also for keeping up to date with our day-to-day working. Technology plays a part in all of our lives now and it’s almost impossible to imagine society running without it.

Stanley could be you or me. He’s just a guy who goes to work and does his job. He doesn’t ask too many questions, nor does he try to shake the apple cart with corporate big-wigs. He locks himself away in his own little office, presses some buttons, takes his paycheque, leaves, then comes back the next day.

But every so often, someone will check on him and give Stanley an order. And however brief, Stanley depends on that social interaction. It has become a core part of his every-day routine, just like tapping numbers on his keyboard. Frankly, the slightest disruption of that carefully tuned balance would likely be catastrophic to his psyche.

And unfortunately for Stanley, the game begins on a day when that interaction never comes. No one visits the lone-worker, nor does anyone acknowledge he exists. Naturally, it unsettles him. In fact, the very idea is enough to pull Stanley’s attention away from the monitor for just a moment, causing him to discover that none of his co-workers are sat at their pods.  For the first time, Stanley realises that he is completely, hopelessly alone. And the thought petrifies him.

So, in an unrelated bid to reduce the risk of DVT, Stanley gets up from his chair, leaves his computer and for the first time in his working life, begins to walk around the office to find out why.

From here, you’re on your own and assume control of this lowly worker. You are looking at the world from a first person perspective and have empty floor space to move around on. No more cut-scenes. No restricted interaction. At last, liberation.

Except, the game’s narrator doesn’t stop talking. In fact, he has a plan for you and will tell you where to go and what to do. The player will be given clear, concise instructions and must perform those to ‘progress the story’. Understandably, just coming out of a cut-scene and with the game’s limited controls, one may feel slightly patronised and irritated that this game is guiding you to the end without giving you a chance to figure anything out for yourself or giving you time to explore. The game doesn’t really want you to understand the world around Stanley and figure out where he actually works. The game isn’t interested in your wants and desires. There is a story to tell and regardless of what you want, the game is going to tell it.

And yet, there is freedom. You still have the ability to make a choice.  Of course, there’s always a choice. And me? I chose defiance. I decided to fight the power. Even to the point of jumping off a moving platform to get away from my objective, killing myself in the process. I’m not going to be dictated to. Not by a video game. Not yet.

I was willing to bet Stanley felt the same way. All he’d done his entire life was take orders from a higher power, but now that he’s been ripped from the shackles of his desk, I imagined my interpretation of Stanley would want to make his own discoveries.  He wanted to enjoy being his own boss for once in his life.

My intention was never to start an uprising or intentionally create riots, but it just so happens, rebellion regularly ties in with my overly inquisitive nature. I like to explore my environment fully. Whenever a campaign demands I go to location C, i’ll still be looking around Location A, hoping to find a collectible, or extra ammo, or a neat Easter Egg/Secret the Game Developers have tried to cram in.

Basically, if I’m told to go left in a game, I will always go right.

But unexpectedly, The Stanley Parable encouraged my choice. It expects it. Where most games convey frustration through their protagonists when i’m not progressing the narrative, The Stanley Parable progressed its narrative around me. It acts as if whatever decision I make is ‘part of the plan’. And that both excited and scared the living shit out of me. The narrative was following me around, working around me, and I’m not going to lie, that led to some genuinely freaky outcomes.

SSC_1

The Stanley Parable is a concise game. You can actually run through to the end in four minutes, but you will not settle for just one outcome, and you’ll get more out of the experience the more you explore. There are multiple outcomes and a wealth of replayability to be found by taking different paths throughout. So, as much as ‘following someone’s lead’ is initially encouraged, inevitably, you will also be tempted to perform an act of defiance.

But nothing will ever top your first time through, and admittedly, The Stanley Parable is at its most interesting when you go in cold and experience the game fresh. That’s when the experiment begins and ends. What does your gut instinct tell you to do? Just like in life, that is how you will always be judged, and that playthrough will likely define your memories of the game from that point forward.

But further enjoyment comes from breaking the fourth wall and watching someone else play. Getting to see what they would have done in the same situation.  See what decisions they make and what they choose to do. This is a game that anyone can play. There’s no shoot button or special-attack. There’s not even a jump button. Just directional arrows and a completely optional crouch button. Frankly, there’s really no reason why you couldn’t put your great aunt in front of this and see results.

Areas for Development

·         Minor graphical clipping issues

·         Some environments rip apart when using certain camera angles.

·         Some minor environmental sticking

 

Final Analysis

The Stanley Parable is that rare experience that encourages in-depth, detailed discussion and theorising. It’s a social game that set forums alight with conversation and sees people challenging one another with philosophical debates and hidden meanings. For a game that started life as a Half Life mod, The Stanley Parable has gone on to become a gripping virtual experience that offers more in its few short minutes than most games manage in over sixty hours.

Technical Competency – 9.5/10
Audio/Visual Quality – 9.5/10
Network Stability – N/A
Overall – 9/10

There are no noticeable issues, save for some slight clipping problems and environmental sticking. Certainly nothing severe that detracts from the overall experience

(These grades assess our playthrough, taking into consideration how many (if any) bugs were encountered, whether there were any interuptions in gameplay and the product’s final technical state. These scores, coupled with the Final Analysis and Areas for Development, are suggestions for future patches and updates which the developers could (and in our opinion, should) explore. These scores are separate to our DLC/Expansion Reviews but link into our Patch/Firmware Reviews.)

(These scores are not designed as a grading system to determine the entertainment value of a product and should not be treated as such..)

Issues you’ve encountered

  • One ending causes a black screen to constantly appear for all future playthroughs if player presses escape before it finishes. This happens regardless of whether the player resets the game or not
  • The game currently doesn’t support lower than OSX v10.8 on Mac. The game is unplayable on this OS. Future patches intend to update this.

Have you encountered any bugs and problems in your playthrough? Anything we missed? Add them in the comments below and we’ll slot them in!

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,