Limited Freedom in The Stanley Parable

As, perhaps, the first obvious choice presented in The Stanley Parable, the choice to enter the left or right door presents an opportunity for the player to adhere to what has been dictated as the game’s story, or rebel against the narrator and assert their own volition. While this offers the opportunity for a player to feel as though they have taken control and denied the narrator their wishes by asserting their freedom (reinforced by his indignant responses), this raises a question we discussed in class. If all the decisions we make in-game are predetermined by the developers, are they real choices?

I would argue that they are ‘real choices,’ despite being accounted for, in the same way it is a real choice for us to pick one DVD over another before we watch a movie, or make a decision about which path to take in a choose-your-own-adventure novel. True, the outcome of each choice will be the same each time you make it, but deciding to go with one path over the other is an expression of the experience you want to go with at that point in time. Much like the choices one might make in The Last of Us, where you may decide whether to be stealthy or loud for certain sections, there will always be an endpoint that has been predetermined, but depending on your own disposition, you may prefer one strategy over another. Games will always have boundaries, limitations, and rules that dictate what you can and can’t do, but within those boundaries, the decisions you make are still your own, and can still offer a form of freedom that is satisfying nonetheless.

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2 thoughts on “Limited Freedom in The Stanley Parable

  1. This reminds me of a comment someone made in class this week about the fact that even though the choices in the Stanley Parable feel limited and mundane, the endings available to the players are wildly different. I think this is partially what allows for that satisfaction you described finding, despite the fact that the developers have predetermined the entire game and our choices’ outcomes. The entertainment value of discovering such different endings, and maybe the illusion that your choices have a large impact on Stanley’s future, could be contributing to the satisfaction.

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  2. First off, I really like what both of you said about freedom. Personally, I think that different experiences, rather than different endings, allow the most freedom in gameplay. Using our daily lives as a comparison, everyone starts and ends their day the same way, in bed. The different endings perspective would argue that since people’s endings are the same, we all had no freedom and our path was predetermined. However, it is the experiences that one endures throughout the day that allow the most freedom. The experience of emotion is what ultimately gives people values and purpose, a passion, and the ability to express this is vital for freedom.

    In The Stanley Parable, I would argue that there is a high amount of freedom since there are both multiple experiences and multiple endings that one can experience. This combination allows the maximum potential for freedom in a game.

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