4 min read
The Stanley Parable: The demo that's not a demo
Developers Davey Wreden and William Pugh had a problem. Their upcoming project The Stanley Parable isn't exactly your average video game -- so to promote it, it couldn't have your average game demo.
Developers Davey Wreden and William Pugh had a problem. Their upcoming project The Stanley Parable (trailer above) isn't exactly your average video game, as it throws players into a surreal first-person tale of rule-breaking and narration. The problem was how to properly convey what the game is all about through the use of a free demo. How exactly could they give players an idea of what to expect from The Stanley Parable without spoiling the main spectacle? The solution, as it turns out, was a bit outlandish -- the duo decided to make an entire new game in The Stanley Parable universe, that acts as a demonstration for the main game. "The Stanley Parable is about the discovery of something surprising, something that catches you off guard," Wreden explains. "I want your expectations to become elastic, to bend and shift according to whatever we throw at you." "So of course that means it's really hard to explain ahead of time what the game is actually about!" he notes. "I could write a summary or a preview, or do a demo that's representative of the content of the game, then you know what to expect and you're less likely to be really surprised by it." With this in mind, Wreden and Pugh realized that the best way to demo an experience about being pleasantly confused was to create another pleasantly confusing experience to present it. "A non-traditional demo like this is my attempt to tell players that their expectations don't mean anything here," Wreden tells me. "Since I can give this out for free without people feeling pressured by a price tag, I'm building trust through action rather than promise. I'm letting them figure out what's interesting about this experience rather than having to tell them myself. I'm expressing trust that the player is smart enough to figure it out on their own." Wreden has found that people who play this "behind the scenes" demo come away from the experience with a stronger grasp on what exactly to expect from The Stanley Parable, than when he tries to explain the game through words. "The truth is that if we actually showed you a 'behind the scenes' of The Stanley Parable, it might hurt your experience of the game," he says. "The mysteries would become less mysterious, and you would know the limits of the game experience. In this sense, the 'behind the scenes' is a facade, a false gesture meant to convey that I want to mess with your perception, but I'm also going to try to make it actually entertaining and engaging."