Critical Play: Walking Simulator

For this critical play, I decided to play The Stanley Parable, a single-player walking simulator game by Galactic Cafe, on the Mac. While this game seems to be popular with a variety of people, as there’s no particular theme to it, because this game takes place in an office, its target audience is probably teenagers and working people, essentially people who understand the concept of an office environment.

Unlike other games, there is no one clear objective in the game. In this game, players can explore this environment and it shifts based on the decisions the player makes. As a result, there are many potential outcomes and endings to this game. There seem to be many endings, like choose your own adventure. The game operates by the player walking through the office, with some interactive objects. Based on the environment, there are multiple points that allow the player to make a decision for Stanley, such as choosing which door to walk through. There is a commentary on decisions from a mysterious narrator, providing hints and establishing the boundaries of the game.

This game intends to be a narrative fun. Even though there isn’t a clear story, it definitely achieved that with the creepy narrator providing feedback on the player’s decisions and making comments on it—I feel immersed in the narration and office environment. What was particularly successful about this game was the way the game designers were able to take an environment as mundane as the office and turn it into an exciting and creepy game. Although the games look so typical, it seems to give out a surrealist mood, which is really interesting. Additionally, the narrator’s voice was a perfect fit for the game and set the tone so well. While it may seem like a minor detail, he signifies the peaks in each decision point and represents the important pivots throughout the game. If you continue to not follow the narrator’s advice, he actually becomes kind of chaotic, which contradicts his announcer/official-sounding voice, making this game one-of-a-kind. To make this game even better, I’d suggest having more of a story structure with the context I was very confused at first because there was not much guidance on how to play the game. I ended up getting confused with the “metaverse-like” environment and the narrator’s “random comments.” I thought this game was a unique experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone!

About the author

CS 247G (Spring 2022) + CS 377G (Winter 2023)

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