Indie Game Spotlight: The Stanley Parable

Indie Game Spotlight is a weekly feature where I highlight an independent game that deserves some attention. Given the difficulty these developers have in being heard, every little bit helps. Some will be free, some will cost money, but all are deserving of some attention.

The Stanley Parable is a Source Code mod made by Davey Wreden. It took two years of work to make and is a superb think piece. That’s what it is, a think piece in interactive form. It’s not a game in the traditional sense. There are no points. there are no enemies. It’s a first person game with no shooting or jumping. It is a game about choice. That’s all you do during the course of the game: make choices.

They are binary choices, each one of them, but they all lead to a very different conclusion. Why? It’s unusual in that it’s not just a work that may need to be experience again in order to fully appreciate it; it demands that you play it again. In fact there are  6 endings. I’m not sure if I should tell you that before yelling yo to play it, but I feel that you need to know that to appreciate everything. It is easy to miss one of the endings. This way there is no confusion.

But seriously, I highly recommend you go play it now. It will require Source SDK Base 2007 installed on your computer to run and Steam since that’s how you get it. You can download the mod here with instructions.

I think this is an apt game to bring this feature back to Creative fluff, because the game itself is an allegory of the relationship between players and game designers. All the different endings drive that point home. That is the first thing about the game that is great is how Davey Wreden was able convey the meaning of the game so excellently through the method of the narrator, who is excellent by the way. But also he created something that wouldn’t work in any other medium. The post-modern discarding of traditional story order and synthesis of meaning couldn’t be done in more traditional mediums of film or books. You get to play the game’s different ending is any order you wish and you will still come away with the full experience. It may be slightly different to another’s based on the order you play it in, but basic nuggets of thought will be the same.

I don’t want to get into to much detail, because I don’t want to spoil what it has in store for you. Just a few hints of what it is about and the insistence you go and try it out now.

Read more in-depth thoughts at my own blog. Spoilers abound.

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Eric Swain

A graduate of Boston University, majoring in English and Creative Writing and has spent significant time studying story structure and theory in the mediums of books, film and video games. His articles offer unique perspective on deep game development and design through his eclectic prose. you can find his critical analysis on www.thegamecritique.com.

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