Critical Play – The Stanley Parable

Stanley was like many of his coworkers in the office. Mild, even, and a bit bland at times, he worked day in and day out just as the rest of compatriots. That is… until he gained the ability to walk away from his desk.

The Stanley Parable places us in the shoes of a mid-level office worker who genuinely wants to go about his business with little to no excitement, only to realize that his entire office space is devoid of life besides himself. Accompanying this realization is the sudden appearance of a disembodied British Narrator that acts as both a guide to Stanley as well as the game’s primary antagonist. In this game, the main mechanic is walking. Stanley’s story unfolds almost solely through his casual walk through the office, with other interactions being a pleasant surprise not totally distinct from the feeling of encountering a slight hill on your walk through the park. The way the game unfolds, however, is determined by where Stanley walks. Choosing to follow the Narrator’s guidance can give the players a straightforward path to finishing the game, but will cost them the valuable feeling of agency in this too familiar worldspace. Choosing to defy the Narrator often yields more interesting results, but can leave the player uncertain with their choices and how to progress beyond the current step.

This, coupled with the numerous possible endings for the game (I’ve gotten around 8 so far), is the core loop of the Stanly Parable: wake up in your office, walk somewhere, make small (or large!) deviations from your previous decisions to see what sort of changes lie in wait.


Overall, very thought provoking game about the nature of autonomy and assistance. 8/10, eight

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