By Tyra Baltram
The thing about puzzles is that there is usually one situation, wherein there is one method of completion to this situation and, with it, one ending, and this puzzle formula can be attributed to riddles, or games, or mazes of any sort. Granted, there are things that diverge from this theorem but the majority of games follow this basic formula which pleases me. The Stanley Parable, at least from what I’ve seen through the demo, diverges from this formula in a big way.
It is not as though this makes me upset, but it is the fact that the game offers players so many different things to do, such as ways to solve a puzzle or paths to travel, that makes me feel overwhelmed. This is because, typically in interactive fiction games, things usually move in one direction and there is no option of going back after an event has taken place, such as a puzzle solved or a bridge crossed. It ties into the fact that I would definitely call myself a completionist because I like to do everything in a game to see all things possible. Interactive fiction kind of subverts this mentality because they seem to not want you to do everything, such as in the full version of The Stanley Parable, they would not want you to both obey the narrator as well as go against their word; a game changing decision is required. Therefore, it is definitely interesting for me to go against the grain and only choose one situation to follow. It also increases my desire to replay a game after I have finished it to see all paths possible, but it is a demand that I would not find it RPGs and other such games.
One aspect of interactive fiction that I do like though, is the anonymity of the player character, or as is mentioned in Montfort’s The Pleasure of the Text Adventure, the lack of description given to the player character so that they inhabit the role of a “nameless adventurer” (17). While the player character is eventually given a personality determined by the choices offered in the game, it is a lot easier for players to step into these kinds of narratives and scenarios as opposed to games with a clear player character, like those with the typical white, male protagonist.
I imagine the actual game of The Stanley Parable has a bit more explanation to it but the demo itself takes a turn at one point that never really gets explained. This turn happens when the narrator is trying to show the player character the beginning of the actual game and eventually ends up basically breaking the game map. Maybe I am missing something glaringly obvious but I cannot think of a reason that this happened instead of actually proceeding to the game itself. Unlike the full game, there is a clear lack of choice given to the player character, and we are just along for the ride with this confused omniscient voice trying to find its way.
Montfort, Nick. “The Pleasure of the Text Adventure.” In Twisty Little Passages. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 1-36.