E for Everyone: The Stanley Parable

Why should you play “The Stanley Parable” (2013)? Because it makes you sincerely, wholeheartedly want to play through the same short series of absurd events over and over until you fully realize the awesome power of office tedium, game in-jokes and devastatingly sarcastic fourth wall breaking.

What started out as a “Half-Life 2” (2014) mod was remade at full-scale in the Source engine by a very small team called Galactic Cafe. Within three days of release, Galactic Cafe sold 100,000 copies, which was far more than it thought it would sell as an indie developer. Also, to the team’s surprise, “The Stanley Parable” was nominated for four BAFTAs. It was clearly well-received critically, so let’s talk about what it really is.

You are Stanley. You love doing your job, pushing buttons. This is your story, and throughout it, you will be presented with choices. Your every action will be narrated by the talented Kevan Brighting, a very British man. Here’s the catch though, Stanley. He doesn’t just talk about you out loud. Sometimes he talks directly to you, and you have no idea whether to trust him, whether he’s a friend or enemy or how to react. You also can listen to what he tells you to do or not. It’s up to you, Stanley… or is it?

By now, you’re probably asking yourself just what kind of game this is, and for you Wikipedia-types, the answer is that it’s a first-person piece of interactive fiction with a lot of satire and replayability. Many people in the gaming community affectionately refer to such narrative-rich experiences as ‘walking simulators’ because the game is compelled forward by in-world navigation rather than combat, solving puzzles or other more tangible mechanics. Also, you can’t jump.

I want to avoid talking about what actually happens in this game, because experiencing it for yourself is the entire point of this genre. However, its website simply claims:

The Stanley Parable is an exploration of story, games, and choice. Except the story doesn’t matter, it might not even be a game, and if you ever actually do have a choice, well let me know how you did it.”

The explanation is inarguably a confusing yet simultaneously compelling sentence. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “Just what is a game?,” going through “The Stanley Parable” will probably help you draw your own line, and that’s why it’s so special.

“The Stanley Parable” is available for purchase on Steam for $14.99 and is frequently on sale for $4.99. You can also download the free demo at stanleyparable.comAvailable platforms are Windows OS X and Linux. The average playtime for this game is 2–4 hours, but because one of the achievements is playing the game for the entirety of a Tuesday and another is not playing the game at all for five years, who knows how much you’ll actually end up playing it. However long you do though, I assure you it’ll be an experience like no other.

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