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Opinion

Why The Stanley Parable Should Be Your Favourite Game Of Last Year

Blair wrote a subheading.

This is the story of Blair. Blair worked at a company called TheSixthAxis. His job was simple: to push buttons on his keyboard and write about the newest and greatest games. He was good at his job, or so he thought. He could string together a decent sentence or two and kept up with new releases.

But Blair missed out on one game, which he would come to consider as the best slice of interactive entertainment from last year. He knew The Stanley Parable wasn’t a totally new release; his friend had explained to him about an excellent Half-Life 2 mod years before, but he just hadn’t got around to it. Due to being a very busy man, and the fact that he kept his savings close, he didn’t get to try The Stanley Parable until it appeared in the Steam Sale. Everyone talking about it just got a bit too much for him to handle.

So Blair played the game, and then wrote about The Stanley Parable in the third person, before deciding to completely switch writing styles, after the embedded trailer, before his readers might have got a bit bored.

That’s me, and I’d just like to stop the third person narration – which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve played the game – now and get on to talking about how I wish I had voted for The Stanley Parable as my Game of the Year 2013. We didn’t even include it in the voting. That’s nothing malicious or us going against the developers; it just genuinely slid under our radar when the time came to pick the nominees.

Instead I picked BioShock Infinite, a game that seems about fifty times less smart now that I’ve played with Stanley. While Infinite succeeded, Stanley manages to subvert every trope in the book and comes across as a truly magnificent game. On the surface, it might seem pretentious, but when you delve into it you’ll find one of the most hilarious and rewarding experiences that the medium has to offer.

If you’re unaware of what Stanley’s Parable is, then its the tale of an average man in a boring job whose co-workers vanish from the face of the planet one day seemingly without cause. But it’s not just one tale; it’s about fifty or more, each of which procedurally changes as you pick different doors, find new paths and press buttons along the way, with a good variety of endings and completely different narration each time.

And it’s The Narrator that really makes the game. Stanley isn’t a talker, so it’s up to this seemingly omnipotent (but as you’ll soon find, just as stuck as Stanley) narrator to guide you through the levels, with insightful and laugh-out-loud commentary along the way.

stanley1

You don’t have to follow him, though – in fact at times it’s better not to. He might get angry, but he can’t really do anything about it, as you ultimately make your own path, destroying the story he’s trying to tell much to his annoyance. He’s no GLaDOS; he can’t really change the environment and it’s clear he’s just a spokesperson for who or whatever is putting Stanley through this endless hell of corridors and office supplies.

There’s really no solution to The Stanley Parable. There are, in total, just under twenty endings, each of which are more hilarious and even better than the last, but there’s no way out – you’ll always end back in Stanley’s cubicle. Back at the start.

The developers, Galactic Cafe, have been extremely experimental with the execution of some of these endings. People often describe something as breaking the fourth wall, but The Narrator often reaches out straight through it, putting the subject beyond the wall and addressing you directly.

It’s extremely smart writing, and something that holds up no matter what you do – the game’s incredibly polished, at least on PC, meaning that even when you think you’ve broken it, you’re actually just on a path which will lead you to yet another ending. It’s at times far too good, and the Mac version is seemingly prone to crashing, leading me to think “oh wow, they’ve emulated a crash screen” and waiting for a snarky comment from The Narrator before realising that I had actually just lost my progress.

stanley2

But it’s never really about how far you’ve progressed through the game. You’ll restart every several minutes at times, with the longest ending route taking just under half an hour, so there’s always something to find, and little need for a save option button even though it’s there, hidden away in the extras menu alongside perhaps one of the smartest and most hilarious Easter Eggs I’ve seen in a long time.

To say I’m enamoured with The Stanley Parable would be an understatement. This is a perfect game, as smart as it is hilarious (and there’s a whole load of hilarity) which is unlike anything we’ve ever seen since the release of the first Portal. It’s like Portal in a way, but it is that and so much more than that. It’s an evolution of storytelling for the medium, and a game absolutely worth your time and money.

The Stanley Parable is my favourite game of last year. The Stanley Parable 2 will be the best game ever if it comes, and if it does not I absolutely cannot wait to see where Galactic Cafe take us next instead.

22 Comments
  1. nofi
    One for all.
    Since: Forever

    “The Stanley Parable is my favourite game of last year.”

    Mine too. Outstanding.

    Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 13:02.
  2. Stefan L
    Community Team
    Since: May 2009

    I too feel rather silly for not having played this sooner. It’s quite sublime.

    Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 13:03.
  3. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    An amazing game, but probably not my favourite from last year where The Last of Us reigns supreme.

    It was truly something different though, a wonderful experience. Not so sure it did succeed in everything though- it pointed out what was wrong with other games and the illusion of choice, but in exposing the lack of any real choice in any game that is not a glitch it also exposed that flaw in itself.

    It’s definitely wonderfully written the whole way through and a definite joy to play though.

    Great work on the opening of the article by the way- I could certainly hear The Narrator in my head!

    Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 13:20.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      There are loads of paths through Stanley that aren’t glitches. They’re choices.

      How many endings did you find? The one based (very, very closely!) on a certain Valve game gave me goosebumps.

      Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 13:35.
      • colmshan1990
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply they’re glitches.

        Just that the game rammed home that there is no freedom in gaming, no true choices that aren’t predetermined and planned out, and that applied equally to The Stanley Parable as it would to Call of Duty’s singleplayer mode. I took the theme of The Stanley Parable to be that if everything is predetermined (and that is certainly made clear), there is no choice.

        At least 10 endings, probably more. I saw two which really reminded of a certain Valve game alright- one was a very obvious direct reference/ homage with a perfect ending, the other (the museum) just by the way it was triggered was written.

        Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 13:50.
    • Blair Inglis
      hisnameisblair
      Since: May 2009

      “It’s definitely wonderfully written the whole way through and a definite joy to play though.”

      Wow, thanks – don’t know how you played my article thou… oh.

      Yeah, it’s brilliant.

      Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 13:39.
  4. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    File under “Journey and other artsy shite”

    Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 14:02.
    • Blair Inglis
      hisnameisblair
      Since: May 2009

      Actually play it though.

      Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 14:23.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        No thanks, it looks so hipster it should be wearing jeans rolled up to the ankles and strutting through Shoreditch.

        Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 15:29.
    • gazzagb
      Master of speling mitakse
      Since: Feb 2009

      Normally I would agree with you, games like Journey or Flower are boring wastes of time, but the Stanley Parable had me genuinely laughing out loud at certain points, and is definitely worth a try.

      Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 15:36.
    • TheDemocrodile
      Member
      Since: May 2010

      What? Tuffcub not liking an independent game about something other than explosions and with sub AAA graphics?

      Say it isn’t so.

      Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 16:20.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        Actually I automatically hate anything that people tell me I should like – as the headline does. Bugger off I can make my own opinions!

        Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 17:14.
      • KeRaSh
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        I have to agree with TB here. Not liking the tone of the headline. Makes me feel like I’m on The Verge / Polygon.
        Just a personal gripe. I haven’t played the game (yet).

        Comment posted on 16/01/2014 at 14:17.
      • double-o-dave
        Member
        Since: Nov 2008

        You agree with tuberculosis? lol

        Comment posted on 16/01/2014 at 15:40.
  5. Kivi95
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    Found it extremely boring. The only funny bit was the narrator but a game should not just stand on that.

    And I do like these artsy game like Journey and the unfinished Swan.

    Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 16:28.
  6. cjb_bjc
    Member
    Since: Jan 2014

    I think it’s only a game that people that have been gaming for years truly appreciate. Now’a’days hand holding is part of the scene and when the/a game tells you to do something you do it. Not even questioning what happens if I don’t.

    These are the sorts of things we’ve been doing to try and ‘break’ games for years. And i’m suprised that something like this hasn’t come around sooner.

    10/10

    Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 16:45.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      I would agree with this entirely. Stanley is basically one big attempt to subvert every other ‘modern’ game out there, and does it massively well. It’s such an enjoyable, enthusiastic game that had me rolling in laughter.

      Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 17:07.
  7. Loxstokk
    Member
    Since: Aug 2010

    My internet-less PC is essentially a big brick with lights on the front. It upsets me that it just sits there and taunts me that although it’s got the appropriate bits and bobs inside, I’ll never (well until BT acknowledge I live in a place that exists) play any of these lovely Steam gems.

    Comment posted on 15/01/2014 at 20:58.
  8. Cron_13
    Member
    Since: Sep 2013

    I’ve never heard of this game, from your description it sounds a bit like Virtue’s Last Reward?

    Comment posted on 16/01/2014 at 15:37.
    • Blair Inglis
      hisnameisblair
      Since: May 2009

      No way, I have no idea how you’re getting that. It’s like what Portal did for games several years ago, think that kind of game.

      Comment posted on 16/01/2014 at 16:35.
      • Cron_13
        Member
        Since: Sep 2013

        Ah ok, I read the part about the story telling and various endings; put 2 and 2 together and got 5 ;) I’ve not seen any gameplay footage but sod it, just bought it; so when its downloaded I’ll check it out.

        Hope its as good as your glowing report! ;)

        Comment posted on 16/01/2014 at 16:46.
  9. AddictedAndy
    PS3Addict
    Since: Oct 2008

    is this coming to consoles?

    Comment posted on 19/01/2014 at 18:35.