Interactive Fiction: Choice Compared With Results

By Zack Lorber

The Stanley Parable gives players a more diverse array of results than similar games of its style that I have played. My experience with telltale games of the parser or hypertext variety is limited because person experience of gaming is mostly restricted to consoles. There are however two experiences that will be drawn on to compare and contrast The Stanley Parable. The two games of a similar form that I am familiar with are Portal 2 and Borderlands Episode 1 Zer0 Sum.

Firstly I will discuss Borderlands Episode 1 Zer0 Sum and compare it with The Stanley Parable. Much like The Stanley Parable, the Borderlands series does not take itself too seriously in regards to respecting the fourth wall. This short element was a telltale game which was essentially the console equivalent to a direct hypertext game. It had a great, short, rich, and concise story. There were four options for every decision that the controlled character had to make. The choices were designed to give the appearance of forming relationships with certain players and alienating others. The problem with having there four predetermined choices presented in the way that that particular game did it was that every choice felt like it led to the same result. It was as if the game made you roll a die, then take the result and then proceed the story congratulating the player for having rolled one die. This frustrating factor contrasts completely with The Stanley Parable where every decision leads to a completely unique progression to the story and a seemingly completely unique ending. Every choice in The Stanley Parable creates a unique ending but all endings point out the meta nature of this video game and how the player’s avatar has no control.

Next there is a puzzle game that loves to insult you for being nothing special. This game is Portal 2. Portal 2 is a game with a commentator who continuously insults the player for completing tests in the same average way. The life of the player’s avatar in The Stanley Parable and portal are similar. Both Characters are impersonal in the way they are not important to the world of their game. In both games the playable character never shows the controller their face. There is one path through Portal and only one conclusion but the games have a similar narrative stlye. A mod does exist to add a portal gun to The Stanley Parable that reorders the map. The gun allows instant travel between the many broken story lines, and the narrator’s dialogue is surprisingly coherent he is irritated that the player keeps subverting him. If ever the player doesn’t follow the prescribed path the narrator feels cheated and frustrated and exudes a similarly hostile sentiment to the authority figure in the Portal game.

In conclusion a single play-through of the Stanley Parable took about ten minutes but a full exploration of the game revealed much hidden diversity of choice. The brevity of the game allows for a vast alteration of the narrative for every choice. The number of conclusions multiply with the number of choices making the style of game less feasible for some longer games. It was refreshing and demeaning at the same time and really gave players unique experiences.

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

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