Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable is a really interesting short game available on Steam.  It is a first-person exploration that plays with the idea of player agency and the concept of free will as it is implemented in computer games.  The new version is an expansion of the original free Half-Life mod, and contains all new art and music, and brilliant honey-voiced British narration by a guy I wish would read me a story every night before falling asleep.  With all the meta-commentary and magical realism, it gives off very strong Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy vibes, with a dash of Portal.  For me, this is vibe heaven.



It's amazing how much interaction seems to be wrung out of an environment with no jumping, no inventory, no other characters, and only very limited ability to actually open doors or push buttons.   The player cannot even pick items up unless the narrator decides to break the rules and make it happen.  Most of the story cues are handled based on the directions the player walks, what is or is not clicked on, how obedient or defiant you are in regards to the Narrator's version of the story, and quite often, by the player's lack of interaction, such as standing in one place for an extended period of time, refusing to move in opposition to the Narrator's version of what's happening.  This game likes to push limits and mess with your head.  Clocks run backwards.  Architecture changes and becomes impossible.   There is an achievement available for pushing a button repeatedly for four hours.  It sounds ridiculous and like it shouldn't work, but it's one of the most intensely entertaining high-profile adventure gaming experiences currently available.

It's hard to talk much about TSP without spoiling the puzzle-box surprises within this relatively short and compact game.  My only complaint is there isn't more of it.  I'd really love a longer first-person exploration game like this with the same snarky humor and quirky surrealism.  And I want the Narrator to record my outgoing voicemail message.

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