Disclaimer: This “review” is enigmatic enough to be considered spoiler free, and more for those who have not heard of or have no interest in the game. If, however, you already have the desire to play The Stanley Parable, then do so without reading any of the following, But check back in a week or two for our spoiler filled analysis of the game.
What the hell is The Stanley Parable? No, it’s not the latest Wes Anderson film. The Stanley Parable is a computer video game that is the smartest computer video game the medium has probably ever seen. For that reason I have written this listicle “review” to shamelessly sell the game to you because it deserves to be bought and played, talked about, and given a nurturing home. I also have the suspicion that if everyone played the game the whole world would be much better off. The Stanley Parable is one parts Being John Malkovich, one part fractal geometry, one part postmodern walkthrough storybook, all involution, and one part an analogy you will actually recognize: Inception. And by Inception, I mean it’s like if Joseph Gordon-Levitt wined and dined you, then took those explosives from the elevator scene and instead attached them to your brain, detonated them, and this process went on like this over and over and over again. Forever. Without further delay, in no order of hierarchy, 15 reasons to play The Stanley Parable:
1) It’s a game you play and a game that plays you.
2) It’s a game within a game within a game within a game.
3) It’ll show you why video games suck and it’ll show why video games are amazing.
4) It’s like being narrated through a story by David Attenborough, if he was a pleasant authoritarian author who just had a couple drinks.
5) It will confuse and it will confuse you.
6) It will confuse your confusion.
7) It’s a game that isn’t a game.
8) It’ll make you giggle like you’re a group of girls in a teen movie and Brad just took his shirt off.
8) You’ll make choices that are not choices
10) You’ll win to lose.
11) You’ll lose to win.
12) You’ll give up control by gaining control.
13) You’ll prove you are human.
14) You’ll prove you are not human.
15) It’s a game that ends but never ends.
If you’re still not sold, check out the free demo. It’s free and custom made, so none of what you experience is in the game proper. But really, the game is good enough to stop my pretentious, self-serving, cultural video game criticism, analysis stuff for a moment, and say, “buy this thing.” To be fair, all you do is walk in various directions and press the occasional button (it’s like the Halo 4 campaign, but without the guns and way more interesting), but in that deceptively limited design I learned infinitely more about myself, gamer psychology, games, and my relationship to them than all of The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, and GTA V combined. It’s not that The Stanley Parable is more “fun” than those games. It’s just that in a time where AAA gaming has reached the budget highs of Hollywood and the derivative lows in originality, a game that studies and question the very nature of those games in such a brilliant way, may just make The Stanley Parable the greatest hero in video games.