The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe, 2013) was released last week and I ploughed through it over two nights, reaching a number of the game’s “endings”. I only dabbled with the original Half-Life 2 mod incarnation once, during IndieCade East earlier this year. But rather than fire up the mod as soon as I returned to Electron Dance HQ, I elected to wait for the remake.
There’s no doubt that the game is fun and you can almost smell the sweat and passion that’s been invested in its development. It might be best referred to, as Amanda Lange put it, “a work of absurdist surrealism”.
Okay, all good. But what does The Stanley Parable mean?
If you’re ready for spoilers, read on. If not, then you can choose to– oh GOD I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE THIS JOKE.
Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange (GameSprout), Clara Fernández-Vara (NYU Game Center), Christoffer Holmgård (ITU Copenhagen), Miguel Sicart (ITU Copenhagen) and Raph Koster.
In this edition: how videogames made oral storytelling culture new again, political art made with computer technology and putting the player back into game design.
Here's yet another Open Mike thread where I promise myself to get involved in the discussion but never find the time. Welcome.
This is the story of a man called Stanley. He used to believe that all game reviews should have scores. Look, a reviewer would write, this is the best seven out of ten that I have ever played. And all the other reviewers wrote the same thing, and no one knew why they did this. It was just something that happened and everyone was happy that there was a objective truth that they could all agree on. This was comforting. Stanley always knew when someone had not played the game, because they gave the wrong score.
But then someone told Stanley that because all of the scores were the same, the score was quite irrelevant. In fact, all games were seven out of ten. Every one. So there was no score, really, just a symbol at the end of the review. It might as well been a photo of a loaf of bread, fresh from the oven.
And then Stanley had to decide whether he wanted to read more of this article, because if he did not, then he would not know if there was any more to know. At least he had to make a decision.
I’m not a fan of #screenshotsaturday. Even though the indie underground looks down at the mainstream's sexual obsession with photorealistic graphics, developers still smear images of game prototypes across Twitter every Saturday. I tune out the hashtag because I don’t want to fall in love with the game implied by a screenshot. I can’t actually buy the game I imagine it to be.
Still, even the most cynical grumpsters amongst us are not immune to screenshot seduction. I spotted a glimpse of Myriad (Erlend Grefsrud, 2013) on Twitter a couple of months ago which probably looked something like this:
After that, I hunted down a video of the game in action. After that, I sent Grefsrud an e-mail. Well, less an e-mail. More of a demand or threat. Hand over a copy of your game. Or else.
I remember the first time I met the beast.
It was early afternoon beneath a naked sun. Having strayed a little too far from the familiar geography of Outpost Draco, I had been relying on compass and guesswork to find my way back home. Not that the camp was home, especially as a dead body lay amidst the huts, but it was the only place I knew.
The noise of a heart beating made me pause my search and I stopped on the shore of a bay. I was no stranger to fever and exhaustion so first thought I was suffering from a new symptom of the plague that ailed me. I was in error, my health was fine. I looked out across the ocean but the beating continued.
Suddenly, I had a very, very bad feeling; a dark realisation blooming in my gut.
I spun around – the beast, the beast! A black, feline creature was creeping towards me over a small rise. Elegant, deliberate steps. Such majesty, such menace! Terrified. My back to the sea, what was I to do? Where was I to go? It was unbearably close, mere metres from where I stood. I couldn’t look away, fearing the beast might pounce.
I backed away slowly… wading into the sea, hoping the cat would refuse to follow. It continued to advance, forcing me further out into the bay where I had to swim to stay afloat. The beast arrested its advance, choosing to pace back and forth in the shallow water at the shore, patiently waiting for my eventual return.
In my beleaguered condition, I could not exert myself for too long and soon began to drown. I tried to reach another shore away from the beast, but it tracked my movements, trapping me in the deep water. I was checkmated.
Coughing, choking. And my vision went black.
Then Miasmata (IonFX, 2012) restarted again.
As I've often said, I don’t like writing about writing as it’s not what people come to Electron Dance to read about. However, I know there are some writers here who might be interested in crossing swords on the wordcraft itself. So I had a stab at jotting down my thoughts about writing and some of the conundrums I wrestle with.
Only read on if you're actually interested in a bunch of rambling notes unrelated to video games.
Here is my final visit to Eurogamer Expo, full of video interviews and brief impressions. And personal slurs.
- Mirrormoon EP (see also: the original Mirrormoon was touched in the Fotonica video last year)
- Proteus (see also: previous interview with Ed Key)
- Skipping Stones
- Three Monkeys
- Tomb of Rooms
- Master Reboot
Special thanks to Tap-Repeatedly for paying for all my drinks and meals.
Last month I tried out a preview version of Boson X (Mu & Heyo, 2013) and gave it around 20 minutes but no more. This wasn’t because it was bad but because it wasn't my thing, a brutal slice of twitchplay that hangs out in the same bar that Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh, 2012) frequents. Got inhuman reflexes? Like intolerant gameplay? Love to grind your skills to success? Boson X is just the ticket for you.
Four decades into my life I don’t have the stamina to take on these challenges any more. Nor reflexes... but I never know whether that’s down to a poisonous mixture of disinterest and playing when fatigued. In an article about Twine a few weeks ago I mentioned “I am quite rubbish at it”.
Then I played Boson X night after night, determined to get on there as well.