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Replayabilty and "Art Games", with The Stanley Parable


   Caution: this post contains spoilers on the Stanley Parable, mostly on why its so good. If you don't want to spoil what the big deal is for yourself, you should go play that instead. Also Game of Thrones spoilers, oddly enough. That's pretty good too.


   So, one of the interesting things I've noticed while reading the current literature, if you want to call it that, on the Stanley Parable is the idea that one of the problems with it is that it has so little replay value. Now in a sense, I understand this quite well. Its a game whose charm is its story, where there is little to do outside of find all the endings, or at least the ones you care to find, and after you are quite done. It's not a bad deal all things considered, as its 15 dollar price tag is just a bit more than a movie ticket these days, and I don't think its too controversial that the game is more fun to the dollar anyway, even if it was in only one play-through. Sure there is no real gameplay beyond finding out what happens when you disobey the path, but, really there's probably more good lines in the game then in most of this seasons movies, so if you come in knowing what you're expecting its a worth your time and money all around.


    But getting back to the problem of replayability. You've bought the game once, seen everything there is to see(I am not playing the baby game for 4 hours. Its not happening), but now what? Now you want to talk with someone about it. Or at least I do. You can only go so long with just internet comments and reviews that agree with you, having your belief that a game is good affirmed by all the authorities the internet offers that you have given your respect, and equally affirmed by the hate of the anonymous detractors, who really, you're sure are just trolls anyway, or their the kind of people you'd rather not share taste with. But still, its not enough. You want to be able have real people agree with you, to share this game which is so hilarious, so smart, that it almost demands discussion. Its not without reason that there are those on the internet who say that someday this one will be taught in colleges, and honestly, I'm one of those people. But until, then, you want to show someone. 


     And that's where the replay value comes in. That's where the combination of small price and short length really work to create a game that can easily be discussed. The Stanley Parable is accessible to the point of absurdity, and springing it on people who haven't yet heard of it is really where the fun begins. Its kind of like being there when the Game of Thrones show caught up to the Red Wedding, and you've got a friend who hasn't read the books. Likewise, exploring the office in The Stanley Parable with a friend, is a joy unto itself. The game's none-gameplay works to get even game-experienced friends in on the action. The length makes it so that a playthrough isn't some nightlong marathon affair, but a couple hours of laughing and reacting to the oddities of the game. I've replayed through the game twice now, with two different friends, and while maybe they were humoring me, they certainly seemed to get a good laugh out of it. I think that's an important part to the game as well. Its a game that's easy to share, and I think that's in itself is somethings that's important.

    And of course, this is far from exclusive to the Stanley Parable. Portal has a similar effect, where the focus on its famous at this point writing and short length made it a much easier evening play-through, than say, all of Half-life 2 which it was packaged with at first release. Perhaps that part of what Portal had that caused it to proliferate as a now old internet meme when it did. And I think that maybe that accessibility and demand for discussion, or at least being very quotable, can make a game seem good even when there's really not necessarily very much too it. 


     I think maybe a comparison is to fun movie you love to share. In fact, I think that maybe games like Portal or The Stanley Parable might be the real cinematic games. Even in the big, smart, award-bait movies are rarely over 3 hours long. The one's that end up remembered usually have something half-interesting they are attempting to say. Maybe that's part of the trick to making a game that is both smart and entertaining. Making it the kind of game you really want to, and can fairly easily, share.  

    Are there other games, that, even though they are ostensibly single player affairs, are just fun to share with others? I'm sure there's more, I'm just not having them come to me right now. What about games where the writing isn't given such center-stage? I feel like that makes things obviously appealing, but there must be more than that. Discuss.
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About SomeWhatGreyone of us since 9:00 PM on 11.20.2008

I've decided that I'm going to take a stab at this game analysis/Critic thing. It's gonna be rough. But lets see what happens.