The Stanley Parable is a video game.

It is also not a video game.

Created by Davey Wreden and William Pugh, The Stanley Parable began life as a Source modification for Half-Life 2, a game that will have its third episode released long after I have grandchildren. It then got a remake which was released in 2013 as a standalone title which baffles both people who have and have not played it.

Is there a story?

Is there combat?

What happens if I just stay in this room doing nothing?

To make a long story short, the game is a walking simulator.

No wait... scratch that. It is a walking AND button-pushing simulator. You know, one of those titles that has you navigating levels as a lame excuse for gameplay. Stuck in a day-to-day routine of pushing buttons for the company he works for, Stanley finds himself one day in a completely vacated office. With no instructions other than those of narrator Kevin Brighting, you then set out to create your own adventure in one of the most boring settings ever to grace the real world.

Whatever happens next is wholly up to you.

You could follow Kevin Brighting's sultry instructions to make your way out of the office. You could completely disobey him and explore the inner workings of a building whose weird architecture rivals that of Willy Wonka's factory. Or you could do a mix of mindless instruction-following and teenage rebellion and see where it takes you. The possibilities are endless!

... Or are they?

See, what The Stanley Parable really tries to do is subvert your expectations of video games. In a medium that is painstakingly dependent on rules and directions, with games forcing you to play them their way even though there is an illusion of choice, The Stanley Parable seeks to poke fun at various video game tropes.

You don't need to be overly smart nor be able to understand a lot of British-pronounced ten-dollar words to appreciate the game; all you need is an appreciation of video games.

Here's an example:

Probably the first fork in the road you come across in your journey, you find yourself in front of two doors. The narrator states that Stanley (that's you, O wise one) takes the door on the left, thereby advancing the plot.

But what if you take the door on the right, hmmm?

Human condition dictates that when presented with a choice and then given an order to follow, there will always be that tiny gremlin inside your head that makes you choose the exact opposite option, thereby sending the entire human race into chaos.

Choosing the door on the left advances the plot but choosing the door on the right also does the same, sometimes in the exact same way that the left door does (depending on your choices). The whole game is a gigantic maze that tries to make you see that no matter what you choose, you will always end up back where you started (which is your office cubicle).

So is there a point to all this?

You can finish the game within the span of two minutes if you're feeling particularly bored, but that isn't the point. The joy of The Stanley Parable is seeing all the trouble you can get into with the narrator and the various lines he spurts out as a result of your messing about.

Hearing him nod his approval is nothing compared to when you consciously disobey his chosen narrative and strike out on your own. Even standing in an empty broom closet for five minutes (something you would never do unless you were a lonely janitor) doesn't get boring as Kevin Brighting constantly ponders on why you would loiter in such a random area for so long a time.

It may be called The Stanley Parable, but it's the narrator who is the real star of the title, moving the story along and providing ninety-nine percent of the humor (the other one percent being you constantly jumping to your death).

The game is fun, but not in the way that traditional video games are fun. It is a smart, reflective look at the medium but isn't afraid to get satirical at times, even going so far as to berate itself for lacking any proper game mechanics and stealing levels from other titles to compensate for its lack of gameplay.

What is The Stanley Parable?

It is a maze that leads you down different roads. Some of them are dark, some are light-hearted, but all of them are humorous and tackle topics about video games in such a way that only a video game could.

And at the end of the day, when you've seen all that there is to see (and trust me, you won't), you can take solace in the fact that you will always end up back where you started, ready to do it all over again.

Chill Box is where we relax and talk about video games and film from the distant past. There's a lot of cool stuff out there the younger generation have yet to experience or even heard about.  

About the author: Carlos Zotomayor

Zoto can see your underpants. Mmm... tasteful.

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