Critical Play: Walking Simulators: The Stanley Parable

The game I chose to play for this critical play was The Stanley Parable, a popular indie game that uses the mundane walking around of an office building to play with a players conceptions of choice, free will, and determinism. In the game, you begin in an office cubicle room and are asked by a disembodied narrative voice to complete mindless tasks on a computer screen as if you are a worker at a real desk job. At some point, the monitor goes blank, prompting the player to begin exploring the office building. Upon doing so, the player discovers that the entire office building is uninhabited and completely empty, an eerie liminal space that leaves the player with a creepy sense of doom. The narrative voice follows the player and comments on your behavior throughout this exploration, often prompting you with choices such as which door to enter or what to do in a certain situation. If you play through the game multiple times, which I have done in the past, you find that if you disobey the narrator, he changes his narration based on your behavior. The narrator tries to get you to turn back, continue to obey him, or otherwise reacts to whatever you do instead of doing what he says. In some instances, he breaks the fourth wall and speaks out of the game at you, the player, which is jarring and slightly scary. In this way, the way you act and interact with this walking simulator alters the narrative of the story of the game itself. It presents interesting and thought provoking questions about choice that go beyond the world inside the game and which cause the player to think more deeply about the narration. This game primarily is a source of Narrative fun, but also Discovery, in that you are urged to keep playing the game to find out what more it has to offer you in term of story and narration. I like this game and others in its genre, like Portal, which use narration not only to guide the game forward but also to make you question why you are playing in the first place, and question deeply the motivations of the character you are playing. This game was pretty fun!


Side Note: I wish I could have played other games that were suggested, but the price was somewhat of a barrier to entry for me, which is a shame. It would be nice of the professor to provide more free-to-play or access codes to games in the future.

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