Critical Play: Walking Simulators

The Stanley Parable Gameplay

The Stanley Parable, developed by Galactic Cafe, is a single-player, interactive story video game available on Mac, Windows, and consoles. This is a narrative fun game because we adopt the persona of Employee 427, a worker at an office whose sole job is to take orders from his computer and push buttons. However, one day he stops receiving orders and exits his office to realize that all his co-workers disappeared and he is the only one remaining in the office. The dynamic of the game feels like player v. game.

There is a narrator but rather than setting the scene and narrating some general rules, the narrator instead converses with the player (playing the role Stanley) as they make certain actions. This was super unnerving to me but felt cool at the same time because it felt like I was being actively watched by the game narrator because the narrator began to narrate the actions I decided to take. The overall look and feel of the game was a bit creepy, especially with the narrator’s voice who so happens to know everything about Stanley. The game felt a bit like a dystopia horror game. I believe the developers did a great job because it is surprising that this description can be applied to a simple office layout game.

There is no set limitation in the game; once the narrator is finished explaining the situation and setting the general scene, the player is then able to start walking around as Stanley. I was slightly confused in the beginning because it felt like I was not being stopped or directed anywhere. I had the freedom to walk around and explore, though it was a bit disappointing that the office doors could not be opened for further exploring.The game felt like a choose-your-own-adventure game but with commentary from the narrator on what to do (choosing the red door vs. the blue door).

This game was really interesting because players typically are guided by the narrator and accept the guidance but in this game, I felt like rebelling and doing the opposite of what the narrator is telling me to do, just to see what would happen. I became bolder at each choice and relished hearing the narrator become more chaotic and annoyed. I believe the type of fun is narrative, discovery, and expression because this is an open-world story game.

To improve this game, I would appreciate some direction when I am close to the directed location, or even a map. At some point, I got lost and was just going in circles because there weren’t any indication of how close or how far I was from the locations the narrator was telling me to go to. I also would appreciate an indication of whether something the narrator says is important or just random, light banter. Perhaps having some cues to pay attention would be useful.

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