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The Stanley Parable

Developer / Publisher: Galactic Cafe
17 October 2013
The Stanley Parable - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.67 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
1,652 Ratings / 9 Reviews
#498 All-time
#14 for 2013
Stanley works in an office, monitoring data and pushing buttons when he is asked to. One day, he notices his screen has gone blank. He leaves his office, unsure about what to do, and finds that the building he's in is completely devoid of people.
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As its stands currently, The Stanley Parable enjoys a fairly positive average score here, and yet the majority of the published reviews of it are negative. Neither of these facts surprise me: articulating why you hate The Stanley Parable would be very easy, but explaining why you think it's good is much tougher. Well, unless I was just going to say 'I've never laughed out loud so often at a game' - which is true, but it doesn't really tell you anything, does it? Some people laugh out loud at The Big Bang Theory. It's hardly the most reliable mark of quality.

Nevertheless, here's my effort: The Stanley Parable is clearly the result of a lot of time spent thinking deeply and critically about games. This is a deeply unfashionable thing to do. The vast majority of what passes for criticism in the world of gaming is laughably fawning and juvenile, and thinking deeply bears far too much of a resemblance to politics for comfort; even the vaguest hint of that is enough to get people's backs up. Were the discourse in gaming up to the standards of even popular music and television, let alone literature, cinema, or traditional visual arts, The Stanley Parable would not be unusual; there would be hundreds of attempts to grapple with what it means to be a game, to subvert expectations not just of genre but of the very form itself, to encourage the player to consider their own agency in the medium. (Consider that music remains music in an empty room, that a game cannot exist without a player by its very definition, and yet the role of the player has been examined less than the role of the listener.) (Consider also that the one genre of games that has done this sort of thing more than any other is interactive fiction - because it ultimately builds on the back of critical theories about literature, not gaming.) Thinking about how video games might do that is difficult, but progressing and developing art has always been difficult, and if games are to be taken seriously as art (and twenty years of talking to people about games leads me to believe that there is literally nothing gamers want more, are more united on, than this) then this has to happen eventually. That makes The Stanley Parable exciting, despite essentially being a man walking around an empty office. It'a a glimpse of where the weird offshoots to gaming that will come in the future might take us.

Some have taken that as being somehow anti-games, that picking apart the seams we take for granted in games must mean that the makers of The Stanley Parable hate games. If you wanted to, you could respond by pointing out that basically every composer that ever moved music forward was accused by somebody of being anti-music in their day - reactionaries gonna react. A more salient point, however, is that The Stanley Parable simply does not work at all unless the player understands the language of gaming. Imagine somebody playing this, having never played a game before; they'd follow the narrator's instructions, complete it in five minutes, and wonder what the point of it all was. They wouldn't understand why they should take a wrong turn, because they haven't spent years being taught by platformers and shooters that there's usually some kind of collectable or reward at the end of the road less travelled. They wouldn't even spot a lot of the wrong turns - it wouldn't occur to them that you could, say, drop off the llift onto the walkway in the cargo area, or that a designer would only ever clearly mark a door as 'broom closet' if they wanted you to notice it and try opening it. The ending they'd reach (one of about seventeen, depending on what you consider to be an ending) wouldn't even make sense to them, because it's a statement on the very act of playing a game. The Stanley Parable is satire, and like all satire of any worth, it comes from a place of love, or at least of true and deep understanding, of the material it's satirizing. It would not be possible to design this game, to know exactly where to drop its secrets and what visual clues the player will need to find them, if you hadn't spent years playing and enjoying video games. And it certainly would not be possible to include all these arch, knowing jokes about the world of gaming. Hell, I'm not convinced that it would be possible to write this game if you didn't have plenty of experience of gaming in general, not just video games; the narrator is essentially a frustrated AD&D dungeon master who has spent weeks planning this perfectly designed quest for his players only to see them tear it to shreds by doing the 'wrong' thing constantly. I have to imagine anybody who's ever spent time playing any tabletop RPG will recognize at least one person they know in this. I only ever acted as a DM once and I recognize myself in it. Maybe that's why I took so much enjoyment in trying to make him angry as possible, and why my favourite part of the game was probably the moment he threw his toys out of the pram completely and went 'fine, if you hate my game so much, go play Minecraft and Portal instead!'

There's a key word there: enjoyment. There is no denying that there is a certain amount of chin-stroking academic thought that goes into coming up with a concept like this, and also no denying that this can result in an end product that's very dry; there is no shortage of works that have broken down barrriers, perhaps even proven hugely influential, but have suffered from a major lack of charm and wit that has made them difficult to love. The Stanley Parable understands that the easiest way to negate that is to embrace the inherent silliness of experimentation, to crack wise about it. Having the freedom to truly break the game is one thing; breaking the narrator, laughing at his frustration and exasperation, is another, and the game wouldn't be half of what it is without his commentary. It's fun. No, really - walking around an empty office, figuring out all of its bizarre secrets and poking at things until you make a British guy angry, is fun. Even having somebody occasionally point out the repetitive misery of life and ruminate on how much genuine agency any of us ever have in any moment is fun. That's a very hard line to sell to anybody that's skeptical, but I'd argue that far from being the anti-game some would like to sell it as, The Stanley Parable comes closer to the spirit of the games of my childhood than most AAA games in the last ten years have.
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Appreciating Deconstruction in Games
I don't like attributing intentions or meaning to art. This is also not a discussion on what art is or isn't. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe edition released a couple of days ago. I played it, so here I want to briefly address why, for me, it was one of the most important gaming experiences ever, hopefully it will make sense.

Also note that this post talks about the new edition. The changes were significantly enough to change my perception of the game. Enjoy.

Burning Out
If you've ever followed the works and posts of Davey Wreden you might've come across The Beginner's Guide. It's not a game that many played (especially compared to The Stanley Parable), but it's way more useful to give some context on what's going on here. The game is told by the point of view of Davey himself, exploring the games of a fictional friend of him called Coda. The whole experience consists in navigating trough small interactive experiences with the commentary of the narrator.

Quoting Wikipedia:

Wreden's narration explains that he was inspired by many of Coda's game concepts, providing his own analysis on many of the themes he perceived to appear in Coda's games. However, Wreden had seen that many of the games are based on themes of prisons, isolation, and difficulty in communicating with others, and that eventually Coda's games took a darker tone and took much longer to produce, focusing even more strongly on dialogue that implied that game development was no longer a positive activity for Coda. Wreden felt concerned that Coda was feeling depressed and weighed down by game development, and took it upon himself to show some of Coda's game concepts to others to get feedback to help encourage Coda to develop more. However, this in turn led to Coda to draw into seclusion. At some point in 2011, Wreden believed Coda had stopped making games, until he was sent an email with a private link to a final game by Coda.

The game is supposed to be a window into Davey's life itself. The Beginner's Guide was created two years after The Stanley Parable was released (to almost universal acclaim). What happens when a project you did for fun turns out to be a way bigger thing than you expected? I don't know about Davey but I can talk from my experience: I have a genuine desire to make things for people, until these things actually start to get used. After that a feeling of paranoia, stress and inadequacy starts to fill the development experience. I'm not saying it's a universal feeling but it's what I felt in The Beginner's Guide. A relevant piece is this recent post about Monkey Island 3 by Ron Gilbert

Return to Monkey Island may not be the art style you wanted or were expecting but it's the art style I wanted.

When I started this game my biggest fear was Disney wouldn't let me make the game I wanted to make, but they have been wonderful to work with.

It's ironic that the people who don't want me to make the game I want to make are some of the hard core Monkey Island fans. And that is what makes me sad about all the comments


At one point a developer transitions from developing for himself to developing for others. I think this is a natural and necessary step, but I personally don't handle it well, and I think neither does Davey. The Beginner's Guide is a testament to that. And so is The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe Edition (in part)

Delivering A Product
If you're not familiar with the timeline of the release of the game here's roughly how it went:

7 December 2018 / Announcement Trailer
27 November 2019 / First Delay Announcement (coming 2020)
2 December 2021 / Where is The Stanley Parable(coming 2022)
30 March 2022 / Release Date Trailer (out 4/27/22)

There's a recurrent theme in all these videos and it's something like "Please, stop. It's coming when it's ready". I might be wrong but I felt the fear of expectations coming from all the trailers. I find it hard to deliver something when no one is asking for it, I can't imagine how stressful it might be to deliver something of this order of magnitude, especially coming from a guy that made "The Beginner's Guide"

Dear Davey, thank you for your interest in my games. I need to ask you not to speak to me anymore. I wonder at times whether you think I am making these games for you. You've so infected my personal space that it's possible I did begin to plant solutions in my work somewhere, hidden between games. If there was an answer, a meaning, would it make you any happier? Would you stop taking my games and showing them to people against my wishes? Giving them something that is not yours to give? Violating the one boundary that keeps me safe? Would you simply let them be what they are?

Then The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe Edition came out.

What makes a game?
The Stanley Parable is probably one of the few games that is less fun the less games you've played (I think another one is Undertale). I find this fascinating. For anyone that didn't play the original the game is a "Walking Simulator": a game where your only interaction is to walk around a map where something happens (usually a narrator talking about something). The core theme behind The Stanley Parable (at least the original one) is "player agency": the narrator narrates something and the game gives you a choice, either you follow what the narrator said or you don't, then the narrator reacts accordingly usually breaking the 4th wall. Davey wanted to discuss the illusion of free choice in games and how usually it's non existent. Is it actually "making a choice and leaving the main path" if that action is intended and scripted?

A person that never played a game in their life simply wouldn't get The Stanley Parable. They would just reach the end and move on. They wouldn't understand why they're supposed to "go trough the left door" and they probably wouldn't even see many of the alternate options because they wouldn't be familiar with standard video game tropes.

On the other hand if you played many games, if you're used to getting optional rewards from secondary paths, then everything suddenly makes sense (kinda). You have expectations, they're subverted. And it takes a lot of time and research and knowledge to understand what those expectations are. n What makes a game? Is it the act of playing it? Is it having a player? Can a game even be a game without anyone playing it? Does it need gameplay and what even is gameplay?

I think those are the questions posed by the original game, and in my opinion it works wonderfully. But at the time The Stanley Parable was just a novelty for me, the new edition changed everything.

New Paragraph: Ultra Deluxe Edition
[This part obviously contains spoilers]

How do you make a sequel? The Ultra Deluxe Edition deconstructs this whole concept. The name of the game implies it's just an enhanced version, but at one point in the game the whole main menu becomes "The Stanley Parable 2". You have a part in which the game explores some random ideas for what might be a sequel to the game, they all seem absurd, then they're thrown into the game and completely change how you experience it. I think the best example of this is "The Bucket"

At one point the narrator introduces "The Reassurance Bucket": an item that is supposed to help you with finding the right way, comfort and reassurance in your choices. Then all the original endings change acknowledging the bucket. I personally grew used to the bucket and for some bizarre reason formed an "emotional connection" with it. The game succeeded in delivering a completely new experience (something worthy of a sequel) by just adding a bucket and changing some lines of dialogue.

But the part that resonated with me the most was The Skip Button Ending:

The first time you get to experience the new content ends up with a disappointed narrator because of the lack of it. You go on a trip down memory lane with the narrator revisiting the original reviews for the first game and thinking about how great it was. Then suddenly Steam reviews appear. They're negative but bring points that some people would consider reasonable. The narrator reads some of them and agrees with the necessity of adding a "skip button" in the game to skip the rambling monologues (which, keep in mind, are the most important part of the game), and then he adds one.

You, as a player, now have the ability to skip dialogue, except that every time you do you skip more of it. 30 seconds, a minute, an hour, two weeks. You, as Stanley, as the character, stand still for the whole duration and don't notice the skip. The narrator on the other hand lives inside the game. Does a game exist without a player? He keeps talking, he feels alone, he begs you not to skip his dialogue.

As you skip more and more the narrator becomes unstable, rambles a lot and seems to become crazy. Then you have just silence. Centuries pass and you're left with a destroyed room, no one talking, a wasteland outside. You go out, walk a bit and then the game restarts, there was nothing to do either.


This links back to the beginning of my review. Whose game is The Stanley Parable? Is it Davey's? Is it the studio's or the players'? How does it feel to go against the wishes of your user base when you want to preserve artistic or functional integrity of a product? I felt desperation in that ending, and a desire to just do whatever one wants to do. I felt connected to it because I also develop small games, I also develop small products and whenever someone asks (or demands) a feature it's either

A) "Oh, I didn't think about it and it seems cool. I'll add it"
B) "Yes, it makes sense but it doesn't fit into my vision of the product"
C) "It's a terrible idea"

Sadly situation B and C are the most frequent ones, and the ones that sometimes put me off from developing something. I'm mentally afraid of them.

Conclusion
I find incredible how the new edition of The Stanley Parable managed to evoke so many feelings and thoughts in my mind just by reusing assets and volountarily revisiting an old game, modifying it. As stated in the introduction I'm not inserting meaning into Crow Crow Crow's work, but I'm grateful for what they delivered and for the food for thought they gave me. Ultra Deluxe Edition is something you should probably play, especially if you have experience with gaming otherwise it just might fall flat, but for $20 it's the best value for money I've ever had in the last years.
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thevinter 2022-05-18T16:21:42Z
2022-05-18T16:21:42Z
5.0
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free will is an illusion and its all just a video game
SCORE: 8 (great)

GAMEPLAY: the gameplay of the stanley parable is not the focus, it is a source engine game and the primary gameplay loop is walking. simple but the narrative is what matters.

STORY: that being said, this game is best experienced without knowing anything about it. the narrative is a well constructed meta-narrative rumination on the current state of the games industry, game design, choice, and at times the nature of man itself, among many other things. the myriad of ways in which it criticizes modern gaming are interesting and a lot of fun to naturally explore and discover on your own, but many of the gags run a bit too long for my taste (whether that was the point or not). also some of the points made about certain genres of games feel a bit snobby while also being very surface level observations. however, like i said, the less you know the better, so just know that the story and writing is the main draw of the game, and it is brilliantly written for most of the runtime.

VISUALS/AUDIO: visually there isnt much to be said. source engine assets. the audio however is outstanding. the voice acting is all brilliant despite most of it being one guy, and the music is used sparingly but it is incredible.

OTHER: this is an incredibly unique experience that cant really be categorized by the usual review format, as what makes it so engaging is something not related to the gameplay or graphics or any usual ways to measure quality. the ultra deluxe definitely adds some of the most engaging content that there is to be found.

OVERALL: the stanley parable is a well constructed commentary on the state of video games, and the ultra deluxe adds a great amount of content that makes that version truly worth buying. it is another great example of taking full advantage of the medium of gaming to construct something truly unique, and though it is flawed and sometimes held in too high a regard, it is something i recommend everyone experience.
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dcook6302 2022-05-18T01:05:55Z
2022-05-18T01:05:55Z
8
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Joguei faz bastante tempo, e sempre que paro pra pensar nele concluo algo entre "genial" e "mó besteira".

Vai ver merece uma revisita. Ou não.
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gabrielctps 2022-03-10T02:03:42Z
2022-03-10T02:03:42Z
3.5
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I stopa da baby
this game gave me a brainblast as a kid. as an adult I realize this is not as deep as I thought it was but this game will never not be hilarious to me
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OnlyCosmia 2021-05-07T18:02:47Z
2021-05-07T18:02:47Z
9.0 /10
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Stanley works in an office, and his job is to follow simple instructions that appear on screen. One day, he has no instructions. Devoid of purpose, he leaves his room only to find that the office is empty; no colleagues in sight.

The game is narrated, and the narrator tells you where to go, although it's up to you if you do what he says. The narration can be absolutely hilarious.

You could say it is questioning what a game is, what people expect from a game, how people like choice in their games, or simply - the illusion of choice.

Many people love achievements and go out of their way to get them. There’s only a small number of them here, but they are absurd. There’s one that you get by toggling an option for “Achievement” in the menu. There’s another that says you need to knock on a specific door 5 times, but then the narrator mocks you for it and sends you on a wild goose chase of sorts.

The controls are simple. Move with the left stick, rotate the camera with the right stick, and A button to interact.

Some corridors are linear, but occasionally you get branching paths, or maybe different buttons to press. These all lead to different endings: so you constantly replay the game, attempting to discover new scenarios.

There’s no official ending, no victory or loss conditions; it’s simply an experience. What I didn’t like is that there is no checklist, so you have no idea how many endings there are, or how many, or which ones you have found.

The graphics are fine, but I found some areas were way too dark; making me reach for the controls to increase the brightness.

It’s a fun little distraction, but I reckon most players will have grown tired of it after one sitting. I think you could easily get as much enjoyment watching a “Let’s Play” of it, and maybe most people would opt to do so rather than paying for it. It's good to experience a few of the endings but doesn’t hold much longevity.
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CaptainClam 2020-03-31T20:12:05Z
2020-03-31T20:12:05Z
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Catalog

Blurrie The Stanley Parable 2022-06-29T13:10:18Z
2022-06-29T13:10:18Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
caesars_whisper The Stanley Parable 2022-06-29T12:13:35Z
2022-06-29T12:13:35Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Bowsette The Stanley Parable 2022-06-28T17:59:38Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-06-28T17:59:38Z
5.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
paulywalnuts The Stanley Parable 2022-06-27T14:27:30Z
2022-06-27T14:27:30Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
greatblade25 The Stanley Parable 2022-06-27T00:38:53Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-06-27T00:38:53Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
FilipProductions The Stanley Parable 2022-06-26T16:39:28Z
2022-06-26T16:39:28Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
rosa_de_areia The Stanley Parable 2022-06-25T14:09:29Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-06-25T14:09:29Z
1.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Margaritea The Stanley Parable 2022-06-23T10:58:00Z
2022-06-23T10:58:00Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Siyx The Stanley Parable 2022-06-22T20:12:50Z
2022-06-22T20:12:50Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
dirtydirtystripmallsugar The Stanley Parable 2022-06-22T19:01:39Z
2022-06-22T19:01:39Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Koopaqueenbowsette The Stanley Parable 2022-06-21T17:57:33Z
2022-06-21T17:57:33Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
fortsrodra The Stanley Parable 2022-06-20T15:18:31Z
2022-06-20T15:18:31Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Previous comments (27) Loading...
  • cringeybabey 2022-06-02 00:16:08.343919+00
    It's been about a week and a half since I've finished the game and seen everything, and it feels weird knowing there will be no more Stanley + The Narrator ever again.
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  • sudatantalus 2022-06-12 02:18:26.976964+00
    yeap the new content in deluxe is better than the first, and that is absolutely no easy task. fucking outstanding writing, how does davey do it every time
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  • Bowsette 2022-06-28 17:54:32.808441+00
    Did you get the broom closet ending guys? The broom closet ending was my favourite.
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  • Bowsette 2022-06-28 19:08:07.20276+00
    This should have its own release as Deluxe yes because it is also a sequel it is literally called Stanley Parable 2 in-game and it also has Stanley Parable 3, and 4... and 5.... and 6... and 7... and
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