In October, an indie game called the Stanley Parable was released on Steam.
The story is pretty straightforward. You play as the titular Stanley, a man with a boring and apparently pointless desk job. One day, you find the office to be empty, while your every action is narrated by a charming Englishman.
The main aspect of the game is choice… should you follow the narrator’s words, you’ll achieve the “proper” ending. However, you can also defy the narrator in various ways, going down all sorts of branching paths to a huge number of endings.
The game has been greatly expanded from the HL2 mod, which would be completed in under an hour. The Stanley Parable offers a commentary on free will and the linearity of modern game design, all with a charming wit and sense of humor. Sure, you can follow what the game wants you to do, or you can make your own decisions and see where it takes you.
With so many endings, there’s a lot to keep you playing over and over again. Hell, one of the endings requires you to actively perform a repetitive task for four hours straight, again a parody of modern game design. Many of the endings are well-hidden, and most endings will start the game over from the beginning so you can try for another.
I highly recommend the Stanley Parable, if you’re a fan of unconventional games. You may consider it an “artsy” game, but it comes across as witty rather than pretentious. If you’re unsure, there’s a great demo available. Give it a try!