Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

The Stanley Parable ranked highly in our “Best Games of 2013” list because it once again made the case for video games as an intriguing medium for unique storytelling. It offered – and effectively played with – the concept of choice. The narrative first game gave players a sense of agency as they explored a strange world filled with statements about interactivity and a sense of self. For all the quality in the writing and art design, the biggest reason The Stanley Parable earned our awards was not only because it was interesting, but also because it was an interesting application of interactivity.

Stanley co-author Davey Wreden is now back with a new game, which is interesting for very different reasons. Honestly, you won’t find many video games that view their creators as main characters in that way The Beginner’s Guide does, which in the case of this game is really, really bad news. The Beginner’s Guide is so mind-bogglingly personal – so heart-on-the-sleeve serious – that each failure is so much harder to parse or swallow.

Show, don’t tell

The most important Stanley and TBG what they have in common is a narrative approach, meaning this is a story game with nothing in the way of challenges, puzzles or action sequences. People who still like a bit of ‘play’ in their narrative first experiences will feel even more let down TBGapproach, however.

Wreden opens the game with explicit narration about the purpose of the game – he’s here to present some short, weird and even unfinished gaming experiments created by a mysterious person named “Coda”. From the start, he works really hard to impress us with how interesting and special this game creator is, and how Wreden is very interested in our real-life thoughts (so much so that he gives players his personal Gmail address in the first few minutes). tells).

The game’s first major flaw is its central conceit – you don’t have to be a movie buff to understand the Shyamalan-esque twist. That might have been easier to swallow if Wreden, as narrator, hadn’t consistently led us to demo sequences by explicitly saying how interesting and fascinating each demo was, or by pointing out and gushing about specific elements. It’s rare for a video game to fail so badly on Creative Writing 101’s “show, don’t tell” test. But the fact that there’s so much narration isn’t the real problem. Rather, the ultimate heartbreak Wedren wants us to feel from this “walk us through these demos” conceit is both spoiled and blunted by his insistence on speaking as if from a diary.

That would all be more forgivable if The Beginner’s Guide hadn’t tried to add depth by letting us “play” its content. Here’s a good example of a story-driven game that doesn’t benefit from interactivity in any way. Every demo is slow and rough looking and there’s nothing to be gained by taking a closer, longer look at the content. Only on a few rare occasions will players be presented with question-and-answer choices or a specific, repetitive puzzle.

Those choices raise issues of loneliness and depression, but they end up with no context or slow build to revelation. Anyone can add a “press A to continue” prompt to a brief dialogue about hopelessness, but by the time we see such parts of The Beginner’s Guidethe dull worlds we’ve passed through have in no emotional way led us to care about the words.

Spoilers ahead

The game’s only conceivable defense, which we unfortunately think still misses the mark, requires spoil the ending, which players will reach after about 1.5 hours. Since we felt like the ending was so telegraphed, we don’t mind explicitly stating it, but You have been warned. (To get past the spoiler, just scroll past the video trailer below).

*Spoiler below*

The Beginner’s Guide ends with us hearing that Wreden has inserted his own confusing attempts at symbolism into Coda’s demos as a way of coping with his own creative dryness – which, while not at all surprising to us, could have been an interesting concept to give a brief narrative game. The ultimate meta-narrative take on the sophomore meltdown, right? But then again, Wreden can’t leave it alone well enough, instead he demands that we as players hear all of his “how can I make another good video game” feeling, dragged through the nose to the conclusion and the emotion he requires us to feel.

*Safe to read again*

Since the game prides itself on its meta-construction, we think it’s fair to point out that as critics, we appreciate the heart and heartache Wreden seemed to pour into this game – unless the game’s overly confessional nature is itself an Andy Kaufman -like character. joke about “arty” games (if that’s the case, the joke definitely didn’t land).

Potential meta jokes aside, The Beginner’s Guide plays out like a diary, whole and shameless. While there’s a debate over whether or not a straightforward diary counts as art worth celebrating, a video game tries to do the same, without meaningful interactive options or revelations, and without giving us as players room to jump to to come to each other. our own conclusions, does not respect the viewer and does not create interesting opportunities for empathy or outrage.

The good

  • Wreden’s heart-to-heart game development story will definitely resonate with like-minded game players and creators.

The bad

  • Rough-looking demo sequences offer very few meaningful moments of interactivity.
  • The game insists on telegraphing every emotional moment.

The ugly one

  • Once a game can be compared in any way to the work of M. Night Shyamalan, it’s in trouble.

Verdict: There’s a heartfelt story here, but it’s one that’s as easy to watch as it is to play. Try it.

By akfire1

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