In many ways, The Stanley Parable Demo and Howling Dogs are opposites. Howling Dogs is text-based, while The Stanley Parable Demo is 3-dimensionally modelled; Howling Dogs describes bodies, while The Stanley Parable Demo has none; Howling Dogs has two endings, while The Stanley Parable Demo has one.
And yet, the two games are more alike than they seem. Both are examples of interactive fiction, though only one is a text adventure—as Nick Monfort writes, “the text adventure, however widespread it may be, is not the only type of interactive fiction possible” (Monfort 6). Both concern themselves with instruction and choice, and both employ a sense of futility in their execution. In Howling Dogs, for example, players are given a set of tasks in a room, and while they may choose in what order they hydrate and feed themselves, they cannot enter a simulation before doing both. With The Stanley Parable Demo, an omnipresent narrator issues directions that players cannot purposefully ignore or contradict for very long before the gameplay requires compliance.
In The Pleasure of the Text Adventure, Monfort says that “the puzzles in a work of fiction function to control the revelation of the narrative” (Monfort 3). While this mechanic is utilized in both games, the function differs. In Howling Dogs, solving the puzzle within the simulations leads to an alternate ending. The Stanley Parable Demo employs puzzles in a nearly facetious way; the narrator, in an attempt to find something to reward the player for, gives instructions to place a cup in a garbage can. Both of these puzzles further the narrative of their games by informing the player of key aspects of the game world.
Within the narrative of both games is a degree of subjectivity. Whether The Stanley Parable Demo tells as much of a story as Howling Dogs is up to the player’s opinion. The Stanley Parable Demo has a narrative in the form of a narrator directing your actions, and Howling Dogs has a story within its alternate ending, wherein the player discovers a murder plot against them. Still, both are unquestionably interactive fiction. As Monfort says, interactive fiction “is always related to story and narrative since these terms are used together in narratology, even if a particular work does have a ‘story’ in this ordinary sense” (Monfort 25).
Tucked away in the world of interactive fiction are stories that confuse, question, and amaze. Both Howling Dogs and The Stanley Parable Demo make use established interactive fiction conventions, such as the hypertext in Howling Dogs and the commands–though voiced–in The Stanley Parable Demo. Still, they feel fresh, with each game bringing interesting takes on the world of interactive adventure and choice. As different as they are, Howling Dogs and The Stanley Parable Demo are alike in an important way: they make the player think.
Montfort, Nick. “The Pleasure of the Text Adventure.” Twisty Little Passages. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 1-36.