Game Review: The Stanley Parable

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This review was originally posted to Steam.

October 30th, 2013

The Stanley Parable game splash image, showing the game title and a bland, dimly lit office containing a 1990s desktop PC, an electric pencil sharpener and some filing cabinets

Right now, there is nothing about The Stanley Parable that I don't hate.

There are games built around a cohesive story with relatable characters, a satisfying dramatic arc and a worthwhile conclusion. This is not one of those games. The Stanley Parable is confusing and all-over-the-place, the main characters are inconsistent, sometimes depressingly shallow, other times infuriatingly opaque. The story spits on the ideals of internal logic.

If a video game makes you want to stop playing video games, what does that say about it?

The Stanley Parable dragged me into its tangled mass of content without much of a warning. During most of my time playing it, I had at best a vague idea of what was going on. And although it tried everything in its power to defeat me (at one point it was literally begging me to stop playing), I pressed on.

The game is ruthless in its mission of deconstructing the concepts of video game narration. It draws back the curtain and exposes the man who pulls the strings. Or pushes the buttons, as it were. Am I able to simply go back to normal games with normal stories, pretend I didn't gaze into the abyss? I can only hope.

I think I've come reasonably close to hearing everything that The Stanley Parable has to tell. Its attention to detail is impressive, the love and skill that went into it easily apparent. At times I felt like Sherlock Holmes, with my personal Moriarty always one tantalizing step ahead. Other times I felt a sense of true companionship when my friend and I forged ahead towards destiny. Yet other times I was confronted with a sadistic psychopath, a gentle father figure, or a petty, passive-agressive bystander.

The Stanley Parable raises more questions than it answers. Fortunately they are the right kind of questions, the ones that keep you questioning yourself and the world around you rather than frustrate and paralyze you. I'm still relishing the afterglow, so my opinion may still shift as I make more progress processing my experiences. But there is one thing I can say for sure:

Right now, there is nothing about The Stanley Parable that I don't love.


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