Whether or not you feel you have gained anything from the Stanley Parable will depend on how much you value a minor metaphorical critique on ‘gaming choices’ and if so, whether or not that is worth it in direct relation to the amount you spent. In a nutshell, this ‘game’ is essentially an attempt by you, Stanley, to discover what has happened to your co-workers and bosses, all of whom have completely disappeared.
That’s the game in its entirety on a superficial level without giving away any spoilers. The underlying message is regarding the choice, or the illusion of choice, that modern video games allude to offer. The developers seem to be responding to games such as Mass Effect, that suggest they offer the gamer real choice in the outcome of the narrative yet in reality the gamer only has a couple of options dressed up in different clothing. There is a clear critique here regarding the nature of ‘choice’ in the video game industry and while it is welcomed change for video games to include a metaphorical message (beyond the simplistic), these messages and critiques should not exist in a vacuum, devoid of any gameplay. The point being that, there is a thought provoking message here, but this is not a game.
Stripped down, the Stanley Parable is a game of ‘walk and listen’. Yes there are some interesting points mentioned by the narrator relating to conscious decision making, but this same message could have been offered through or alongside gameplay features that stretched beyond walking around a corridor. Quite simply, this is a lecture, a chore of a lecture that unfortunately lasts for 2-3 hours before you realise you could have just read the same underlying message in a free online article in about 10 minutes without being subjected to this gaming con artistry.
Clearly there is a sense that the Stanley Parable is offering some ‘high art’ by not including actual gameplay, or that this ‘genius indie title’ will have your head scratching. There is a suggestion that if you ‘don’t get’ intelligent games that you won’t appreciate the Stanley Parable, that you can’t grasp its deeper message. Well, that is quite frankly a gross lie and yet a master stroke in marketing. People are desperately scrabbling to offer rave reviews of this new form of game, eager to show they are not cut from the COD cloth of gaming, that they can enjoy this intellectual critique. Do not be fooled. This is a totally unsatisfactory experience especially considering the price charged.
Do you want a thought provoking experience about the intricacies of the mind and the illusion of choice? Read a book. This is just pseudo-philosophical gaming at its very worst, conning the masses into feeling like an intellectual giant for a couple hours at the small price of being tricked by the illusion of gameplay. Who’s more of a sucker in this scenario, Stanley? Or us?
'The game will end, the game will never end'. Sold to us as an interesting game of uncertainty. Well, there is at least one certainty about the Stanley Parable; you will never see the cash you spent again.
As always comments are welcomed and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.