The Stanely Parable: The Choice of Non-Choices

Let’s start again.

Hey Gamers,

I’d like to first begin with an apology, but I feel as if I need to explain myself a bit before it will make any sense…err wait. No, sorry! This is an introduction to another post. Well, I guess it all worked out, because I needed to apologize for that mistake anyways, didn’t I?

Not Sure If Referencing Inception Or Just Tired

Not Sure If Trying To Be Self-Referential Or Meta

Let’s start again.

I’m going to be very direct here: this piece is about the video game The Stanley Parable, and the following observations will be a deconstruction about the games premise. I say this very simply now, as the game itself deals with a lot of odd concepts that can be hard to follow. I myself, also deal with a lot of odd concepts that can be hard to follow (see: writing about The Stanley Parable). My writing can also reflect the very same structure of The Stanley Parable, as sometimes, my own articles end up being odd enough to the point of being hard to follow (see: writing about The Stanley Parable). Therefore, I will try to “cut the fat” of my own bizarre writing machinations, as The Stanley Parable will do more than enough heavy lifting, in the department of oddly hard followings.

Oddly enough, the game is in fact, not that hard to follow.

Which is made further odd, by the fact that you really only have two open doors to choose from.

The Illusion of Choice

Are you still with me? Anyone who successfully finished that last sentence: good, I’m glad you don’t mind being a bit odd, or reading about odd things. Before we really begin, I’d like to say as an aside, I often pick topics that are much larger than myself to tackle, regularly leading to an otherwise questionable ending. I’m not sure if taking on something much larger than myself is foolish or courageous, or if there is much of a difference between the two, but this topic stands as something I may not yet fully grasp. However, after playing The Stanley Parable quite extensively in the past several days, I will point out that the comparisons between me and the experience itself are alike, as the game deals with larger subject matters of interest, with The Stanley Parable regularly leads to an otherwise questionable ending.

Or A Broom Closet

Or A Broom Closet

Let’s start again.

I’d like to first begin with an apology, but I feel as if I need to explain myself a bit before it will make any sense…err wait. No, sorry! This is an introduction to another post. Err, actually no, we’ve come full circle, this is a relevant apology for this very post, twice over now, even. Whew, glad I haven’t quite confused myself yet. Are you still with me? Anyone who successfully finished that last sentence: good, I’m glad you don’t mind being a bit odd, or reading about odd things. As you may have noticed, this post has been a little “restarty” in trying to get itself headed in the right direction, but this very writing is in many ways, mimicking, or perhaps even emulating how The Stanley Parable (TSP) plays out. You see, TSP is a first person narrative adventure game, but it stands out from other experiences as being self-aware.

Or, as self-aware as programming can be, really.

Seen Here: You Playing The Stanley Parable

Seen Here: You Playing The Stanley Parable

Why TSP stands out as a delightful narrative experience is this very reason: self-awareness, and the games want to confront the ideas of choice. In fact, the game confronted me so very well about the ideas of choice and self-awareness, I was self-aware enough to make the choice to write this article about being odd.

Seen Here: You Reading This Article

Seen Here: You Reading This Article

Though, I suppose, I didn’t really have a choice in being self-aware, did I? Nor did I have a choice at all about writing this post, as both things happened in the end, anyways. So, now, when I really think about it, could I really choose not to be self-aware? Wouldn’t the very idea of choosing to be unaware, effectively come from a self-aware decision? Did I really have a choice in writing this article? And to that point, if I really had a choice in writing this article, would you even be reading it right now? And why would I be needing all of these question marks in the first place?

Good Question?

Good Question?

Let’s start again.

I’m serious in discussing TSP, the process of doing so is as straight forward as the game itself. I know way earlier on I said I would “cut the fat” with my own bizarre writing machinations, and believe me, the fat has been cut. I however, wish to do justice to the odd nature of TSP’s romance with self-awareness and confronting the ideas of choice….by doing both. I think.

Err, told you this would be hard to follow. Here, maybe some pictures from The Stanley Parable will help you understand the game better than I have so far explained.

2015-03-12_00002

Did This Help? No? Okay, Let’s Try Another One.

 

How About This One?

How About This One? Any Clearer?

 

This One Didn't Help Either, Did It?

This One Doing Anything For Yah?

Eh, wrong approach or incorrect choice of words, perhaps. I wonder if there really is such a thing… There I go again! Okay…we’re all taking a step back now, and doing what we do best, here.

Let’s start again.

You see, much like this article, TSP has a lot of restarting in it, like, a lot a lot. No, it’s not due to extreme difficulty, and no, it’s not because you have to back track a lot or because you can get stuck (well, both are true, but not really). No, the constant restarting has to do with confronting the ideas of choice (in video games) and self-awareness, as TSP is rather straight forward if you want it to be. The “main story” can be completed in less than 10 minutes even, but if one were to complete this game only once, and in this short manner, one may miss the entire point of the game, which is funny, because in order the beat the game, all you have to do is follow the narration. However, doing so would help to negate the point of TSP, which is confronting the ideas of choice and having self-awareness, both of which only occurs when you acknowledge either, which I guess means the point of TSP could be about how progress is a fixed path,  and how there really is only one real choice which is one of non-choice.

Which is made further odd, by the fact that you really only have two open doors to choose from.

EDIT: The Illusion of Non-Choice

If this is true, then this whole article may be completely wrong about The Stanley Parable, in which case, I wish I could have first began with an apology, but realized I needed to explain myself a little first before it made any sense.

Let’s start again.

No wait, before we do that, for anyone who is just really “over” this article, you’re free to go. I’ll save you the trouble of reading any further, by letting you know you’ve reached the conclusion of this article.

I’m serious, just look at the next picture.

You Win!

Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of the article!

~Pashford

The Fake End

White

White

White
Let’s start again.

2015-03-12_00033

Okay, I’m assuming anyone who’s kept reading up to THIS POINT, is a really curious individual. For that, I applaud you, as you’re exactly the kind of person who would likely love playing The Stanley Parable. The ideas and concepts TSP deals with have been made evident up to this point, but it’s really how the game executes these ideas that are so note worthy. I don’t know if TSP is the first “postmodern” game (or example of one) that has ever existed, but it may have done it the best thus far.

A Random Screenshot That Doesn't Really Spoil Anything

Pictured: A Random Screenshot That Doesn’t Really Spoil Anything

The primary reason I wrote this article was due to the games skeptically playful nature of meta-narrative, and how well it deals with dissecting, and even re-purposing  the theories behind video games as a medium (with healthy awareness). While I was playing TSP, I was reminded of an episode of the Idea Channel (which was another big inspiration for this write up), as the video deals with a lot of the same concepts going on in TSP. The episode in question deals with the idea of the TV show Community being a representation of postmodernism, and naturally I began to wonder the same thing about The Stanley Parable, as I observed similarly equatable antics.

In the Idea Channel episode, Mike goes on to discuss how Community may be a postmodern work of television, as it uses tropes and ideas that exist in modern TV, and uses them for Community’s own purposes, but then deconstructs them with a certain self-awareness, with the show going as far as absorbing, commenting, and challenging the legitimacy of all of the elements in that multidimensional space.  The Stanley Parable does much the same, as it acts out as a representation of everything going on in video games as a medium, whether good or bad, and then uses them for entertainment, all the while questioning whether or not these concepts are good and bad, and whether it matters.

The Stanley Parable takes on what makes a video game work, the paradoxes involved, narrating on how it’s able to work, and then even going as far as trying to disprove that the very same concepts even work at all.

Is There Ever Really A Choice?

Is There Ever Really A Choice?

I mean, in a basic sense, the game is self-aware, as The Narrator of the game is aware he is a narrator, that the players avatar Stanley exists, and that he is even being controlled by somebody (you, to an extent), though it could be argued all three are symbiotically controlling each other, all existing as a result of the illusion of choices, in order for the idea of a game to exist in the first place. Obviously, the game has programming limitations, just like any video game does, so this self-awareness while in existence, can only do so to a certain logical end. As an example,  you in turn can  not “follow” The Narrator (despite his omni-presence) by choosing “incorrectly”, the biggest choice in the game being choosing between two open doors, but by the virtue of the game allowing you to choose, you in a sense have just chosen “correctly”, as any choice, even a non-choice, would have been a right one.

Press 2
Its this odd dichotomy of “choice”, or the lack there of within the games parameters, that works quite brilliantly, and helps to make a unique meta-narrative experience in the world of gaming.

I  was tempted to go on further, and examine more quotes and many of the endings The Stanley Parable possesses, in an attempt to better understand the existentialism at play, how the phrase “it’s the journey and not the destination” that matters, and even speculate on whether choice really is an illusion, in how we live our every day lives….but I won’t. I won’t because it would spoil a lot of the charm of what makes The Stanley Parable such an enjoyable experience, and why you should go play the game, and see for yourself what critical thinking it may provoke.

I’ll just wait here.

Unless of course, you wanted to have a little bit more fun, of course…and go around one more time. We can do it all again, if you really want to.

Let’s start again.

~Pashford

(And as a special reward for those who read this far who wanted to speed run this post for an even faster time, CLICK HERE!!)

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