What is the Stanley Parable? It’s a question I left PAX wondering to myself, and it’s a question that I still have after beating the game. And yet, I don’t mean that question in either a literal or philosophical sense- if that makes any sense. Literally, it’s a first-person narrative driven “adventure” game, to the extent that you definitely go on an adventure in the game. And describing the game in any deep, analytical approach would be far too easy for reasons I will explain later. For now though, The Stanley Parable exists in a sure state as a game I have decided to give a 5 out of 5.
Continuing with the literal portion of the review, the “objective” part, The Stanley Parable is an HD remake of the original Half-Life 2 mod of the game. It stars you as Stanley, an office drone in the most literal sense of the word. One day Stanley’s life goes weird and from that point on you navigate the world that’s sort of like Portal meets Office Space. There’s a British narrator who follows you for the most part and breaks the 4th wall, but the game mostly boils down to you and the choices you make along the way. There are some environmental puzzles (especially to get some of the endings), but it’s a narrative experience all the way through. Oh and the game looks gorgeous if that’s weird for me to say. I mean it’s probably the most gorgeous realization of a boring office I’ve ever seen in fiction.
Now what I mean by how easy it might be to delve into The Stanley Parable in an analytical sense is that it would be extremely easy for me to tell you that this is a “deep” game. It would be easier still for me to tell you it’s a comedy game; a Portal-esque game without the puzzles, and that it would be the easiest to tell you that this is an art game. The Stanley Parable is all those things. It’s a game so artistic it has its own museum, a game so funny it breaks down its own humor, and a game so deep I’m sure many will find cause to celebrate the game in many intellectual circles of the internet.
But then I began thinking…maybe it isn’t so deep. Maybe I’m just shallow? Maybe the game isn’t very funny. It’s just novel? Maybe the game isn’t even art. Maybe it’s just a video game.
And I’m just a writer, who thinks that if this game earns any score (whether it should or not is a different matter) on the basis of my personal opinion, then it deserves a 5. Why? Because it’s a novel/original idea that hasn’t been done before. Because it’s a game that was incredibly hilarious at times, and surprising at times, and beautiful at times, and I liked the way the light hit the desks in some of the cubicles. Also sometimes, I liked how it made me think stupid thoughts about art, and then how it made me realize just how pretentious I am when I write about things like this.
And because it’s really just a video game.
So for a game that at least may have tricked me into thinking it’s one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had; The Stanley Parable still deserves the arbitrary score of ‘superb’.
[+It was, for all intents and purposes, an enjoyable video game experience][-It did crash on me once so there’s that]