Gamers keep talking about The Stanley Parable, calling it "game of the year" and "revolutionary." 

This baffled me. Some indie title based off a Half Life 2 mod is better than everything else in 2013? Even Bioshock Infinite?

I played it and didn't get it initially. The Stanley Parable barely qualifies as a game, as it's nothing but walking and pushing buttons.

You play as an office drone named Stanley who wanders a deserted office building and listens to an omnipresent British narrator discussing his actions. 

For example, I came to a room with two doors at the start of the game. Both were open, revealing hallways that stretched away from them. The narrator said:

The narrator said, "Stanley went up the stairs," so I did. The narrator said, "Stanley walked into his boss's office," so I did. The narrator said the story was over, and it was. I followed the directions given to me by the narrator and the game was over in five minutes. The ending bored me. 

(minor spoilers ahead)

I didn't get why The Stanley Parable is brilliant until the second playthrough. The game restarted in the same office building. I walked the same hallways and reached the same room from before with the two open doors. Again, the narrator said that Stanley took the door on the left. 

Instead, I went right and found this:

The narrator was unhappy with my choice, but he adjusted the flow of the story he was reading to compensate. But I wasn't done. Every time the narrator told me to go one way, I went another. The narrator grew more angry, insisting that I should follow the script. But I never did. 

Finally, I was locked in a dark room. The narrator said something weird. "You're not Stanley," he spat accusingly. "You're a real person." 

This is where the game starts getting meta. Really meta. The Stanley Parable is less a game and more an interactive experiment that makes you rethink video game storytelling entirely. 

The Stanley Parable is the first game I've ever played built around examining the conflict between what the in-game story and what you're actually doing. That sounds lame but I promise it looks cool in action. 

The best way to explain the conflict is to think about Halo. The game tells the official story about the noble soldier who rescues humanity from the Covenant and Forerunners.

The player's experience differs. My Halo story consisted of jumping off cliffs a couple times, riding around with a jetpack, and trying to kill my co-op partner so I could do unspeakable things to his body. 

Halo ignores that discrepancy. It just keeps going, pushing you along the campaign path. It (and every other video game) pretend the player's story and the official story are the same. 

The Stanley Parable amazes me because it builds the entire game around the difference between those stories. It gives you the power to change the official story and make it your own. The game makes you reconsider what the real story is when you play a video game. Is it the official story? The player's? Both?

I won't spoil the rest of the game. Suffice it to say The Stanley Parable has fun poking holes in game storytelling conventions. 

Play this game. It's cheap, and it's on Steam for Windows and Mac. It offers only a few hours of gameplay, but The Stanley Parable does something few other games can claim. It is wonderfully, radically, completely different than anything you've ever played before. 

What do you guys think? Has anyone else played this game yet?

(image credits)