The Stanley Parable Demo: Deconstructing Demonstrations

The Stanley Parable's demo is a demo, right? We think it is, but we're not sure.

It seems odd to talk about a demo rather than the game ahead of its full release. Demos are supposed to give the potential buyer an idea of what the full game will be like. This is usually done by letting them have a limited time to play the full game, or using specific level(s) that showcase the core of the game's mechanics and style. At expos, the demos are there for press to feed in to the pre-release hyperbole, even though the game is yet to be let out of its box, let alone allowed to land on its feet.

But with The Stanley Parable, we feel that the demo itself is worth getting a mention because it really is something else. What that something else is, however, we're not entirely sure.

Coming out next week, this re-imagining of the Half-Life 2 mod of the same name, sees developers Galactic Cafe gleefully mess with us pitiful potential consumers, making no apology and taking no prisoners.

Knowing Me, Knowing You, Knowing Games

It's very clear from the outset that Galactic Cafe certainly have a dry, ironic, and dark sense of humour. The whole demo is the game desperately trying to show you the actual demo, although it's actually a demo in itself, turning the whole thing into a bizarre piece of despicable metaphysical japery. Through its wry jokes, the demo is a critical arrow to the knee of the games industry and its customers, with both developers and players being sent up in brutal fashion.

But though it's extremely funny, it really is a bleak satire on what we and the industry have become. It tears apart and pieces back together not just the idea of what a demo is, but what narrative in games means. Once put back together, you realise that the things we've come to give weight and value to - story, choice, linearity, and emotional engagement - are all completely absurd.

And all this in a 30 minute demo.

"[A] mind-f*ckingly funny brick to the face of gaming."

A Demo Is A Demo Is A Demo

But does the demo actually showcase any of the actual gameplay? I suppose it does show the graphics and the game's engine, but even if you know anything about the game's history, it'll really leave you in the dark as to what you'll actually end up doing in the full game. But that's the point. Galactic Cafe are here to shamelessly mock our perception and expectations of games and the games market, and its glorious.

If anything, the demo does show the game's devious cynical and somewhat suspect tone, something which seems to be consistent across some of its promotional material, such as the brilliant "Raphael" trailer.

If this carries through into the final game, The Stanley Parable will be nothing short of a sinister masterpiece of gaming misanthropy. Nothing and no one will be safe from its blunt wit, which will make for a game that's as painfully sobering as it is hilarious.

Is it a succesful demo? Well, we suppose so, as we now can't wait to play it! But even though it makes you none the wiser about the game itself, and even if you don't end up buying it, the demo itself is worth playing just for the mind-f*ckingly funny brick to the face of a game that it is.

The Stanley Parable will be available to buy from Steam from October 17th 2013. The demo is currently available to download now from Steam. For more (or less) information on the game, visit www.stanleyparable.com.

Featured Columnist

Bearded British game-bear. Likes his JRPGs accompanied with a G&T. Lives in London, UK. Also writes a lot about theatre and film. *jazz hands*

Published Oct. 12th 2013

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