Here’s Hoping: THE STANLEY PARABLE, Looks Meta, Interesting, and Thoughtful…

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

download

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

download

 

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

download

 

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

download

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

download

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

download

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

download

A few years ago I stumbled across a Half-Life 2 mod called, The Stanley Parable. I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, as I was never really into the whole “modding” scene, but it probably was a game journalism site of some sort. I read a brief and vague description of the game, and was intrigued. It basically said that it was a “office simulator,” and that it was some type of meta commentary on the nature of making decisions in  games, or, in reality, the lack of the ability to make choices in games.

The goal of most modern game design is to create the illusion of player agency, which is a fancy way of saying “player control.” The thing is, though, there are no choices. There is no agency. In the most successful instances, the best a game developer can ever really do is make you think that your in-game actions matter. No matter how many options a player is given, no matter how intricate an outward spiraling web of consequences form from developers provided set of  options, you are still on some form of delineated path. It’s predetermined, and there are only so many outcomes. A lot of times the “outcomes” are put into a few different groupings. Like, “good” outcomes, “bad” outcomes, and, usually the most boring, “in between” outcomes, which, more often than not, are “bad’ in nature, because they don’t resolve anything, one way or another. The thing is, however “open” a game may seem, creators do have a “cannon” version of the story that they would like you to play through.

I’m not trying to knock game designers, or trying to point a big, neon finger at myself that reads “Really smart, dude,” no, not at all. It’s just indicative of having to “design” something. However many options are available, they aren’t an unlimited resource. There are only so many variable developers can account for, or want to account for. Well, that is if the game has some type of narrative. I’m talking about games like Skyrim, or the Mass Effect series. A game that is just “pure mechanics” can side step these kinds of challenges. For instance, the game Don’t Starve is a more recent example of what I’m talking about. Every time you start up a new game you are thrust into a randomly generated world, and are then given a set of tools and mechanics to survive. The number of different permutations one could go through to survive is pretty staggering. It works so well because there is no game developer imposed narrative, just the one you imagine yourself, and the simple, but complex, set of game mechanics.

When developers are able to maintain the facade of “choice,” it impresses the hell out of me. I mentioned the Mass Effect series before, as I think it’s one of the best example of this magic trick esque design approach. Whether you like those games or not, you have to admit that what they accomplished was pretty incredible. They made it seem like you really had control over the trajectory of not only your character, but also the entire universe that your character resided in. It wasn’t until the final push of the third game that they began to stumble with their illusion, and it’s totally understandable. They couldn’t possibly create multiple endings that catered to what every player wanted. Instead, they decided that they had a story they wanted to tell, a few variables they would consider, and then went with that approach. I think it’s fair to criticize the direction they took with the story(Apparently, some of the DLC reconciles some of the endings issues, but I’ve never played them.), but not the mechanical nature of it. At the end of the day, that’s what games are. They’re mechanical. That’s why we use terms like “game mechanics.”

Over the past few years, the conversation about video games has been really interesting. As they become more complex and intricate there’s more to talk about. It’s just the nature of progress, and as technology becomes more complex, well, so do video games. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the things in gaming that we take for granted would have ever been possible. A lot of the more “seasoned” game journalists have been around for awhile, and they’ve seen the medium advance. It encompasses their entire life, as most peoples jobs do. So, they have a lot of “high minded” conversation about the nature of these progressions. They’ve even come to a point where they sometimes whole sale make up terms, like “ludo-narrative dissonance” as a short hand when discussing the growing divide between narratives and game play.

Even though I quite enjoy the “intellectualization” of games, a lot of it feels like hyperbole some times, honestly. At times it feels like some game journalists kind of jump the shark. They focus of their entire lives revolves around games, which most of them have never partaken in creating, and it seems like some have become, well, a little jaded. So, when something “different,” or “ambitious” comes down the pike, a lot of pretentious sounding conversation starts. Hey, it’s an understandable occurrence, but I imagine some game developers may find it annoying, because, like I said before, a lot of these writers don’t know a whole lot about actually making games, and sometimes probably have no idea what their talking about. It starts looking like a snake eating it’s own head, in a way. They say a lot of vaguely interesting things, and use some flowery terms, sure, but a lot of times they don’t really say much at all. At least, not anything of actual substance.

In a lot of ways, the original mod, The Stanley Parable, seems like a direct reaction to these types of conversations, and some of the games that I mentioned earlier. It’s an examination of how games are made, the idea that “there’s no wrong way to play” when there really is, and how you can’t ever really deviate from what’s intended. Well, you can, I suppose, but it won’t really bring you to anything, or even “break” the game, if you venture out side of it’s intended design structure. So, when you play through the mod, that’s the conversation the game is having with you. It’s not really subtle about it either. There is a narrator that guides you through the small game enviroment. You can listen to him, or you can try to make your own way through the game. When you do your own thing, the narrator informs you of this, and sometimes even decries your “choices.’ Obviously, these sequences are part of the experience, and is really at the crux of the point the game is trying to make. It’s a really fascinating experience for those that play a lot of games, and read a lot of game criticism. I especially appreciate the fact that this type of conversation has been added to by someone who actually made a game. A “putting your money where your mouth is” type of deal.

It seems that mod creator, Davey Wreden, isn’t done making his point. On October 17, 2013, a fuller, more complete version of The Stanley Parable is going to be released through Steam. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, it made it through Steam’s Green Light program, and he and a few others have been remaking the game. It’s not just a straight forward remake though. They’ve added some more depth to the story, and re-imagined the setting. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished product, and the wait is almost over.

You can play the demo right now, and even if you’re not one to play demos normally, I’d still recommend you check this one out, as it is all material that is unique to the demo, and just adds another layer to the sub-text of the actual game. It’s a clever little examination of demos, and also gives you an idea of what you’re in store for with the final game. It actually reminded me a bit of Portal, but that’s just on a superficial level, really. It definitely shares that game’s sense of humor though. It’s totally worth checking out.

At the end of the day, as I get older, I look for something a little different in my gaming adventures. I’ve been playing them for the better part of 22 years, and I enjoy when game creators try new stuff, and push the medium forward, because it’s at a point now where it could possibly become stagnate. So, here’s hoping. If anything, I’m sure The Stanley Parable is going to be an interesting experience, and, honestly, that’s what I’m really looking for out of games these days.

 

 

I'm starting this blog in an effort to become a better writer, and thinker.

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