The Rise of Indie Games: Challenging Traditional Structures (The Stanley Parable)


Jennifer Annunzii
Michael Callisto
Alexandre Cote Benoit
Sean Rajjab
Alexa Zakaid

Although the capitalist mainstream or AAA industry games have been successful in the past by sticking to a formula, making sequels and allowing replay ability, indie games have emerged to challenge these traditional structures. Rather than risking with a new and creative concept, the same generic plot or storyline is used to ensure financial success (Porpentine). Digital Distribution through various platforms such as Steam, Windows etc. which are made available by multinational companies,  allow less financially prosperous game creators to get out in the market by avoiding the steep cost of distribution and retail (De Jong 4). Indie games are based on anti-authoritarian principles and ideas which dominate a market that was previously monopolized by AAA games. They offer a refreshing alternative to the “Hollywood” cliché and due to great effort from few producers or writers, consequently forming a closer personal connection between the creator and user. The rise of indie games allowed games such as The Stanley Parable to provide alternative narrative structure, Gameplay and interaction which contrast the easily distinguishable patterns present in capitalist AAA games.

In the traditional narrative structure of mainstream game industry the hero is portrayed as a powerful, rugged and skilled male avatar whose mission is to rescue the victim, usually female. The protagonist in The Stanley Parable on the other hand is a generic office clerk and part of the working class which automatically makes him more relatable than the fantastical ideal offered in adventure games (Gottschalk 8). Typical AAA games often have a quest, or some sort of mission to accomplish to restore the balance. A common example being the “save the princess” quest which always leads to the expected happy ending, the same satisfying closure offered in fairytales (Sherman 245). On the other hand, TSP offers an alternative goal based on trial and error with multiple endings consequently breaking the traditional structure of mainstream games. The game offers introspection in which the challenge is the analysis of the self and reasoning behind the gamer’s actions rather than defeating an enemy. Big budget industries offer games with fantasy adventure story setting in an imaginary world as exemplified by Zelda or Mario for example, whereas the mundane office building setting in The Stanely Parable is in contrast relatable due to its realism (Sherman 244).

The Gameplay offered in indie games rewards are different and sometimes illogical contrary to the method used by mainstream games which reward good performance with unlocked content or level up. In TSP, the player is offered more gameplays and endings possibilities when they resist the narrator’s directions or break the traditional formula. The achievements are randomized in this particular game and have no logical continuity as for example the achievement unlocked when the player jumps repetitively (De Wildt 5).The first  versus third person perspective changes the immersive atmosphere and escapism obtained through Gameplay. The avatar acts as a barrier in mainstream games which disengages the player from the character in the story. Independent games often choose to use a 2D structure due to being both less expensive and time consuming which also diminishes player’s immersion in contrast to the 3D perspective offered in TSP (De Jong 18). Traditional mainstream videogames, especially adventure types, usually have a linear narrative with a chronological time structure or path whereas innovative indie games offer alternative narratives which loop as in The Stanley Parable (Montfort 5). The slow paced indie games allow players time for reflection and decision making rather than distracting them with fast paced hyper stimulation and intense graphic imagery which leads to the numbing of critical thinking (Gottschalk 4-6). Usually the plot is structured to follow the evolution of the character who reaches higher levels by demonstrating skill, yet in TSP, the challenge is not to win a competition but to question our typical actions and decisions as gamers (Sherman 252). In mainstream games, the player is often detached from the many creators whereas independent games such as TSP offer a direct connection between creator and player through the narrator which is a different method of interaction than that most gamers are habituated to (Montfort 34-35).

With the rise in indie games emerged alternative narrative structures, Gameplay and interactions which stimulate critical thinking as opposed to entertain and distract. By altering the traditional formula of mainstream games, the creators of indie games such as The Stanley Parable challenge the predictability of gamer behavior.

Works Cited:

De Jong, Joey. “Indie Issues: The Meaning of ‘Indie’ Games, and Their Incorporation into the
‘Mainstream’ Game Industry.” Universiteit van Amsterdam (2013): 173-96. Jstor. Web. 20 January 2015.

De Wildt, Lars. “Precarious Play: To be or Not to be Stanley.” Press Start, Vol.1, No.1 (2014):1-
18. Jstor. Web. 26 January 2015.

Gottschalk, Simon. “Video-Games as Postmodern Sites/Sights of Ideological.”
Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring 1995): 1-18. Jstor. Web. 21 January 2015.

Montfort, Nick. “The Pleasure of the Text Adventure.” In Twisty Little Passages. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 2003. Web. 1-36.

Porpentine. “Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution.” Nightmare Mode.
25 November 2012.

Sherman, Sharon R.. “Perils of the Princess: Gender and Genre in Video Games.” Western
Folklore, Vol. 56, No. 3/4 (Summer – Autumn, 1997), 243-258. Jstor. Web. 27 January 2015.

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