With the release of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe coming this year, I thought that it would be a good time to highlight this peculiar title. Though it started life as a modification for Half-Life 2, the standalone remake boosts a more detailed story and an improved engine that offers a more diverse, unique experience. On that note, let’s get talking about Stanley and his narrated existential crisis.
Conceived as an interactive drama and walking simulator hybrid, this game follows the perspective of Stanley, a man who has to traverse through a surreal workplace environment. As the player moves through this game, a narrator provides exposition for the events they come across. Gameplay consists mainly of either following what the narrator says Stanley is going to do or choosing to ignore the narrator. Most of the player’s actions invovle interacting with the environment, no combat to be found in this game, which is surprising considering most games that came out of Half-Life modifications are heavily based on the shooter components of the game engine. This sets up for comedic results of disobeying orders and sometimes finding yourself in Minecraft or Half Life style environments. There are so many outcomes that are possible you will find yourself having a new experience with each playthrough. Breaking the fourth wall is by far the most quintessential piece to creating the comedy and altering of conventions that make this game stand out from other titles.
Why this game is so interesting is the fact that it challenges the standard conventions of rules defined for a player in a video game. While most games have a static set of rules that are followed from day one, The Stanley Parable’s gameplay and narrative gave a new way to creating an interactive story. The sense of predestination and choice is something that players are able to change for themselves, similar to how sandbox games like Minecraft or Garry’s Mod give a player the opportunity to make their own adventure. It’s because of this that I believe games like ICEY, Firewatch, and Gone Home were able to be created as they have similar concepts found in the Stanley Parable and are all acclaimed games. The Stanley Parable was very much a game that helped in redefining the narrative formula that the game industry had become so accustomed to.
To anyone who hasn’t played this game yet, I would say either hop on Steam and buy it now, or wait until the Ultra Edition comes out for consoles as it is stated that there will be more content to be added.