Davey Wreden Delivers an Intimate Story Game: The Beginner’s Guide

This is the kind of gaming experience that compels me to get my thoughts out about it because I have been thinking about it nonstop since I finished playing about 24 hours ago. The Beginner’s Guide is a first person narrative experience with minimal player interaction. Instead of keeping you busy with mechanics and enemies, a narrator (Davey Wreden) guides you through a compilation of games to tell you what he thinks of them and of his relationship with a person named “Coda”.

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There’s always a man. There’s always a CS map. 

Please excuse my bad Bioshock Infinite joke.

Anyway, the player moves from level to level seeing what appears to be the slow progression of a game designer becoming more skilled and honing their creativity through games. What starts of as some kind of strange analysis of his friend’s games turns into this concerning dilemma of what Davey wants and how the friend reacts through his creative medium.

Spoilers ahead in the next paragraph.

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One of the biggest feelings I took away from playing this was creative inspiration. I was blown away by some of the imagery that the levels presented. Starting in pure whiteness or darkness blew my mind. The manipulation of space that made everything seem so magical and temporary reminded me the power that games really have. At one point, you enter a room with floating text of many, many game ideas. It fascinated me. I felt like I was being shown drafts and wanted to take any one of his ideas and run with it.

I am in love with this concept of minimal control, walking-simulator style game that hits hard on delivering a certain feeling or idea. There will always be a place for AAA titles, yes, but now that games are so accessible on Steam it only seems right that personal games like this are emerging more and more.

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Davey Wreden took this compilation of games (or made them) to show us just how hard the creative process can be. He shows us how the desire for creative freedom can often juxtapose the “rules” that we take for granted in games. He makes us question tropes, puzzles, and solutions. I think the most powerful thing he did in The Beginner’s Guide was use 3D space to metaphorically explore the inner mind space of the developer. I felt privileged to be led by Davey through such personal experiences like growth, frustration, and isolation.

The Beginner’s Guide artfully explored new territory with this one. I hope to see more projects from him, and other creators, that deliver a similar “auteur” experience. If games like The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, and Jazzpunk were up your alley, don’t miss this one.

 

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The Stanley Parable: More Than a Walking Simulator

When I originally came across The Stanley Parable on Steam, it was a work in progress that you could play on Garry’s Mod.  I was so intrigued by the premise that I decided to be patient with the promise of an impending full-fledged release.

Boy, was it worth waiting for.

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I couldn’t wait to get home from my job on a computer at an office to play a simulation of a guy who works on a computer at an office… go figure!

First, it has to be said; this game is not for everyone.  I knew I would be into this kind of game just like I knew I would be into Gone Home.  It might be because I have been playing games since I was 8 years old, because I studied games in school, or because I simply believe in the auteur movement in video games.  I’m not saying this game is only meant for the most dedicated of gamers, but the message definitely has more impact the more familiar you are with the tropes of games in general.

The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration comedy adventure.  Like Gone Home, Dear Esther, and Thirty Flights of Loving, it is designed to feel more like a short story than a toy.  What you learn rather quickly in the game, however, is that the story itself is not the most important part.  Sound contradictory?  Well, it is… sort of.  The Stanley Parable is a game about choice.

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Increasingly difficult choices may emerge such as: which mug will best convey my mood today?

Similarly to Bastion or Dear Esther, you have a narrator companion in this game who tries to help you by guiding you through the story.  You could be a very obedient player and do exactly as the narrator tells you… or you could ignore his guidance and forge your own path.  TSP is a game for that type of gamer; the gamer who wants to know what would happen if you went right instead of left.  At every turn, the game tempts you to deviate from the intended path and explore the possibilities.  I hate spoilers so I really don’t want to give the game away by giving examples.

The game is all about pushing boundaries.  It’s a system with many outcomes just waiting to be explored.  Your interactions are minimal, but it’s about being a creative player and testing the possibilities in a variety of ways.  If the game Antichamber taught us anything, it’s that we take a lot for granted in video games.  You have to forget what you think you know about games in TSP and sometimes just backtrack, turn around, wait, try again, be adventurous and creative.

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What kind of gamer are you? Do you think this slideshow appeals to your sense of humor? This is why we’re here.

The Stanley Parable is a video game about video games, so I thought it was very appropriate that it was made using Source Mod.  It looks like games we are familiar with: Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead.  The drab office setting also lends itself to the theme perfectly.  It has sort of an Office Space vibe to it which, I think most people will admit, screams you should get the hell out of here ASAP.  The madness of this game definitely got to me right away.  The first night I bought it, I played it for 3 hours and put it down, but I knew I hadn’t seen all there was to see.  At work the next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I had to go back.  I had to know what else the game could do.

I wound up spending about 7 hours in The Stanley Parable and confess I didn’t see absolutely everything (there’s an ending that requires the player to type something into the console which has to be set up in the launch options).  In fact, I feel obligated to do that as soon as I finish writing this because of the obligation I feel to know what’s there.

That is why The Stanley Parable was a magnificent project and that is why I recommend it to anyone who loves games.  At $15 I think it’s more than worth the experience and the laughs.  I don’t know why there are so many users on Steam forums and metacritic who keep complaining about $15 – $20 price tags on these short form games.  We readily pay $20+ for brand new DVDs and Blu-ray movies that last roughly 2-3 hours.  But I digress.

Do yourself a favor and put this game high on your priority list of games this year!  I guarantee you’ll feel refreshed by the experience and get plenty of memorable chuckles.