Pro-tip to avoiding Steam sale regret: Play at least one of the discounted games you bought within a week or so of purchase. At least then you can kid yourself that all of these aren’t going to gather dust in your library.
The Stanley Parable had gone mostly unnoticed by yours truly over the past few years. I’d heard of it, but I never roused myself to finding out about it. I guess it took a $2 sale to stir me from apathy.
Do you even need me to explain it? I probably need people to explain TSP to me. Basically, you take on the role of an office drone who is faced, probably for the first time in his life, with a choice. Many choices, in fact, all lurking inside a strangely empty office building. A narrator gives a quirky voice-over, telling you what you should be doing and berating you when you go off the beaten path. The “game,” such as it is, is mostly an experience in which you explore environments, make some basic choices, and see where it leads you.
So, choose-your-own adventure with a somewhat irritable narrator and game overs that loop you right back to the beginning, allowing you to explore other paths. Oh, and a super-duper-meta message concerning predestination, game design, and curiosity.
My daughter and I played an hour and a half of the game, deciding on each playthough what we would do. At first we rebelled, then we conformed, then we started exploring side paths and seeing where the road less traveled would take us. I’ll admit that I was pretty charmed and amused for a while, particularly when the narrator started getting weird, but after some time my goodwill toward The Stanley Parable started to ebb away, leaving no small measure of irritation.
OK, it’s funny in parts and I think the concept is interesting. But let’s be honest — it’s also pretentious as all get out, trying to convince you that this is some sort of extremely deep philosophical journey when most of the time it’s weird for weirdness’ sake. I get it, I’m a rat in a maze, I have to question my own free will, I have to doubt everything, I have to quit the game just to “win,” and so on. At some points, it kind of feels like the game’s writer was just penning stream of consciousness and hoping that no one would call it out.
So I guess for two bucks, it was worth it for the rather short experience. It’s just a shame that the longer the game went on, the faster my interest, amusement, and enjoyment decreased. Left door, right door, no door, in the end nothing matters…
…except for the choice to play something different. And so I did.