Published on August 8th, 2011 | by Alex5
>The Stanley Parable: The Deepest Little Mod You’ll Ever Play
The Stanley Parable is only 30 minutes long – and that’s if you play all the storylines. The environments are lackluster. There are no weapons. A mere glance at the technicalities of this Source Engine mod (which can be played for free with the Source SDK Base 2007) might be enough for the passerby to dismiss it. However, in doing so, they would be dismissing the most brilliant, existential, transcendent gaming experience released this year. I’m serious.
There will be two types of articles about this mod: the ones which tell you to play it, and the ones which tell you about it at the cost of major spoilers. Middle ground is nonexistent, and while I feel that articles of the former type are well-advised, this particular article falls under the latter category. In other words: MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT.
As one might guess, the player of this mod is cast in to the role of a man named Stanley, who works a mundane job in a rather large building wherein he does nothing but receive orders on a monitor and carry said orders out by pressing buttons on the console in front of him. (Ardent fans of “Lost” will be instantly hooked, correctly sensing a common theme.) Today is an interesting day, however – it would appear that all of Stanley’s coworkers have gone missing, and he’s acquired a little voice in his head which aims to chronicle his every move.
The voiceover acting, while independently-done, of course, drips with the professionalism that spawned the iconic G-man and GlaDOS. In a manner similar to the recently-released (and also phenomenal) Bastion, the narrator will chronicle your every action in the world, giving you direction and adapting his narrative in the event of your disobedience.
Yes, there is a narrator, and yes, you can disobey him. In fact, that’s what makes this game special. You can choose to do something other than what he has planned for you – or so it seems. Each of the game’s six storylines tackles the dilemma of freedom in a different way, with the narrator reacting differently depending on how cooperative you are.
The stark absence of any NPCs in the world leaves the player alone, save for the pleasant crooning of the British voice in his head which passively demands obedience or death. This is not a game to be played in a crowded room – it is an exercise in solitude. No matter which path you follow, the voice in your head will gradually reveal to you the truths of the nature of your actions, but most important to the game’s nihilistic feel is not what it says about the actions you commit with your mouse and keyboard, it is what this pleasant chap tells you about yourself as a player.
The game is a commentary on solitude, free will, determinism, identity, and suicide, all rolled up into the most plain of packages. What compels you to play the game – and then to go back on your second through sixth runs – is not a desire to see new places or marvel at the spectacles which developer Cakebread has created. You’ll want to walk these mundane hallways over and over again just to see if there truly is no exit, and if Stanley – and you, by extension – are merely slaves to the whims of the narrator. The game cuts through the fourth wall so smoothly that you won’t realize until the first ending that you’ve just partaken in a thought experiment.
The Stanley Parable is to gaming what Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” is to literature; short, overly simple, but forceful beyond imagination. There are no real plot twists; in fact, the game’s point is made all the more forceful by how blatantly obvious it is. Stanley is the Patrice Meursault of the gaming world.
As you step out into the light of City 17, a goal only attainable by complete and utter adherence to the narrator’s story, you’ll hear a familiar Frank Sinatra tune, you’ll reflect upon what you’ve just done in the game; but your reflection will not be confined to what Stanley has done. You’ll be more concerned with what the game has just told you about yourself.
– Obviously Jesus