The Stanley Parable

Storytelling has always been a fascination of mine. It seems to permeate almost every article I write. The storyteller is dependent on diction and dialog to make the tale come to life for the listener and reader. Legends and tall tales from oral histories eventually were written into tomes, venerated for their information and their sacredness. Commercial publishing came next, then the movies, television, and now the multiple forms of interactive media. After years of innovation and tempered expectations, we have outgrown paper.

In many ways, the past forty years of the digital era mirror the evolution of storytelling: it’s all about user interfaces. So to some extent, the Stanley Parable is best experienced without any introduction. Except, maybe, the trailer above. Don’t watch the second video unless you want to experience the game with a blank slate. The second video is just one of the seven possible outcomes. The game can be downloaded for both mac and PC in the above link for free. It’s worth the download just for the existential sky dive the game will put in your mind. This is a video game without a weapon. Your biggest enemy is the narrator. Victory is impossible. The decisions are simple. You can do whatever you want… or can you?

Created in Los Angeles by 22 year old Davey Wreden, the game attacks traditional conceptions of storytelling. For example, a novel may have thousands of choices that characters make. But in most cases, the story comes down to one decision to turn the tale. The Stanley Parable grants several choices but tons of decisions. It touches on that gap between free will and determinism. Or, possibly more confusing, examines what in life is predestined against that which exists in the temporal indefiniteness of right now. There is a beginning and an end for sure… but what happens in the middle?

It’s sad, I know. All stories must come to an end. But you can get something out of this one.


August 25, 2011 / By