Year Made: 2013
Content Areas: English Language Arts
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: 1 hour (a single playthrough is typically accomplished in 15 minutes)
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Easy
This is the review of a game about a man named Stanley. Stanley is the protagonist of Davey Wreden and Galactic Cafe’s game The Stanley Parable. Stanley works at a company and presses buttons all day long, but one day, he receives no orders and cannot find his coworkers anywhere. At this point, the Narrator describes Stanley leaving his office to discover the truth. However, the player can choose to follow the narrator’s story or create their own. They can choose to take the right door or the left, go upstairs or down. They can even choose to stay in the office and not leave for the adventure. If they veer from the story, the Narrator tries to account for the difference and even can get annoyed or upset with Stanley for ruining his narrative.
A few of the endings explicitly end in death, but nothing is shown beyond a black screen (and Stanley lying on the ground in one ending). If students have difficulty handling death, give them a head’s up that some of the endings include that and they can One of the largest challenges in playing the game was that students who are not used to first-person games and the quickness of the camera could feel a bit queasy. When we played through it in my class, I offered that if a student needed a minute to recover, they could look away from the screen and just listen instead. Typically, they just needed a moment to recover before they were back to watching the game and discussing options with the rest of the class.
Narrative, control, characterization, and the effect characters have on each other all appear in The Stanley Parable, making it a great choice for an English Language Arts class. Students can latch onto how narrative changes based on character actions and see the power of a story in a game that focuses so heavily on it. They could also look at how the Narrator and Stanley affect each other as characters based on how the plot changes.
My own class played The Stanley Parable and used it as a gateway to discussions about themes of choice, control, and happiness, all of which fed perfectly into our discussions on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We set it up with one copy of the game that was projected onto our screen at the front of the class. Using a wireless keyboard and mouse, students took turns one at a time sitting in a hot seat and playing as Stanley. The rest of the class watched and listened (and a number of them became backseat gamers). When that Stanley met his end, the next student would play. In both classes, we reached about four different endings within our sixty minute class. While our main text has been difficult to understand, the students latched on to The Stanley Parable. They loved being able to play during class, and we were able to have much deeper discussions than ever before. They talked about who was really in control, if the Narrator could be trusted, when Stanley seemed his happiness, and what really mattered in the end. Several students had the opportunity to play and the class even strategized as a class, deciding that the current player should go one way and the next player would go another. Students who had seen the game before had a chance to act as experts and help students who didn’t understand what was going on. It was a day of success, engagement, and excitement for all of the kids, even those that didn’t get to play firsthand.
The Stanley Parable is an exciting discovery for students to play through, and it is fascinating as a teacher to see which students follow the narrator and which do not. The level of engagement and depth to our discussions make The Stanley Parable a game that I would gladly use and any English teacher would enjoy using in a classroom again...and again...and again...and again...
Educational Rating: 6/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 7/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)