I played a game called "The Stanley Parable" last night. It was pretty amazing. The graphics were nothing special, (although they were fine) but the game – the game was like playing an episode of the Twilight Zone.
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You play the part of Stanley, a boring office worker with a boring job that he loves. And suddenly one day, Stanley looks up from his computer as he realizes that his work cue is not filling. And lo—all his coworkers are gone. And so he roams around the office building looking for clues.
But here's the twist. Stanley's story is being narrated by a third person as he goes along. "Stanley walked along and wondered where all his coworkers are," says the narrator. And eventually, Stanley end up in a hallway where you have to make a choice. Do you go through the left door or the right door?
"Stanley goes through the left door," the narrator says.
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That's it. That's the whole game. You either obey or disobey the narrator, and the interactions get deeper, weirder, and more meta. There are many endings. There are many surprises. There are strange little delights. In the version I played, you end up exploring a museum dedicated to how the game was made. It's won many awards.
This nihilistic, mind-bending take on the first person explorer genre was exactly the right fit for my mood at this time, so take my recommendation with a grain of salt. The game has won a lot of awards, so it's probably not just me.
But, for the most part, The Stanley Parable is a great experience that anyone with a touch of dark humor and ironic playfulness will enjoy. It is also that rare jewel of a game that is genuinely comedic. Intentionally. On purpose.
It’s the kind of an experience that can only be delivered by the language and convention of computer games. I don't even think this game would really work on a console. A novelization would not work.It would make a terrible movie. But because it's a game, where the player has agency and interacts with the fiction around them, the meta storytelling works. As a result, creators Galactic Café have made an artful expression that could not have been made in any other medium.
I think this debate has been over for a long time, but playing "The Stanley Parable" is one of the rare times I've experienced a game that is undeniably art.