Defying the Narrator

I was playing a game over the weekend with my friend called the Stanley Parable, and while playing it I discovered an interesting style of storytelling that I had’t encountered very often. The style was a very potent form of narrative dissent, or the character and reader defying the story that the narrator has laid out for the two to follow. The game has multiple endings, depending on the choices you make, and at every turn the narrator has something to say about those decisions.

The most obvious thing that makes this game different from others out there is the complete lack of action. You are an employee in a mysterious corporation who discovers that he is the only person in his entire office left in the building, and after he leaves his desk discovers different reasons for their disappearance, depending on where the player decides to travel within the building. The game is entirely about choice, and when you disobey the narrator, he insults you, and gets very emotional that you’ve ruined his story. Of course you are free to do everything that he tells you to do, but in the end it is entirely your choice. You can even stand in a broom closet if you so choose (I recommend it, it leads to some pretty funny dialogue).

This game demonstrates how video games can offer a different kind of storytelling through player choice. This kind of interaction between the medium and the viewer is only possible through an interactive medium such as video games, and offers a perspective on choice that most books and movies don’t or can’t offer. To be able to decide how you want the story to proceed, regardless of what the narrator tells you to do, and create your own path further validate video games as their own legitimate and creative form of storytelling medium.

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