Interactive Fiction and The Stanley Parable Demo

While his argument is mainly concerned with text-based computer games, Monfort’s commentary on interactive fiction as presented in Twisty Little Passages is also relevant to mainstream video games. Monfort deplores the fact that interactive fiction is still looked down upon by academics who dismiss works of these types as games rather than considering them as the valuable work of literature that they can sometimes be. The author wishes to legitimize interactive fiction as a form of literature by laying the groundwork for the analysis and understanding of this type of fiction. Monfort presents academic terms and basic theories that can explain some of the many attributes and capacities of interactive fiction. Doing so, he believes, will allow the form to evolve and develop out of intellectuals’ accreditation.

The Stanley Parable Demo is both an example of what interactive fiction can be and a critique of the format in itself. Much of the demo’s content addresses issues raised by Monfort. Among these are the peculiarities in the interaction between what Monfort call the operator and the computer programming. The narrator that guides the player through The Stanley Parable Demo suggests rules to the player that implicitly demand to be broken. For instance, the operator is at one point asked to stand entirely still for twenty minutes: a command that most sane players will break almost immediately. This gives the operator a false impression of control over the intended narrative of the game, yet the demo clearly demonstrates that this freedom is false and that the player is still strictly subjected to the intentions of the developers. The narrator even asks the player to reflect on how he might have acted in an inadequate fashion that might have caused the demo to go wrong when the player is clearly in the situation that the developers intended him to be in. Although the narrator insinuates that the player is actively and extensively affecting the narrative, a second play through of the demo will reveal to the operator that there is no other way (at least that I personally have found while playing it) to finish the demo. While the player can skip certain rooms that are not mandatory, there is only one main path to play through the demo. Even in instances where the player is given an illusion of choice, such as choosing a button to press amongst two or many, the result of his actions remain unchanged and the game is consciously poking fun at this fact.

While The Stanley Parable Demo is critical of interactive fiction, it is also a clever use of its capacities as it reverses video game conventions and conveys meaning to the operator in a way that only interactive fiction could have done. With its quirky humour and unconventional gameplay, The Stanley Parable Demo falls within the tradition of works that Monfort would have defended as a legitimate, beneficial and exemplar achievement of interactive fiction.

 

WORKS CITED

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

 

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