You are a man in an office. All your co-workers are gone. Find out why.
In a sane world that would be the plot to The Stanley Parable. It’s not. It’s not even about Stanley and barely about parables. It’s a video game made by video gamers for video gamers, a game that knows it’s a game and knows that you know it’s a game. You’re in a hall of mirrors.
Not really. You’re in an office building.
What fascinates me most about The Stanley Parable is how little you can interact with the world. Stanley can walk at a normal pace and occasionally push a button. He can’t jump. Or run. Or pick up anything.
All you get for feedback is doors opening and closing. Oh, and the narrator.
Is a Charming British Narrator™ becoming a mandatory element of “clever” games like Little BigPlanet? It’s the closest thing you have to an antagonist in The Stanley Parable. But even antagonist doesn’t fully describe it. He cheerfully guides you through paths. Wonders when things go “wrong.” Is exasperated when you’re disobedient and relieved when you comply.
Sometimes I find myself wanting to please the narrator. Other times his anguish makes me giggle. It’s such a bizarre relationship.
Bizarre is the word. The game explores the mechanism of choice in video games, but the irony is that you don’t have any choices in The Stanley Parable that the developers didn’t think of. With no obvious game mechanic (shooting, driving, jumping), you can’t go anywhere they didn’t expect or do anything they couldn’t predict.
Well, within certain definitions of the word “do.” To stick it to the man in The Stanley Parable, try running against a wall for three hours. Spin around until your analog stick breaks. They’ve recorded dialog for every interaction sequence imaginable. Plus the non-interactive ones like standing in one spot and doing nothing.
I tried that for a while. With the crushing power of my three gigahertz, eight-core PC, and my video card’s thirteen hundred shader cores, I stood in front of a fern. The fern didn’t move. I didn’t move. I waited. Staring at the fern. Staring at it. Staring.