RE: Awesome Robo and the topic of future updates!

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Hi internet people! How have you been?

If you haven’t noticed (Which, in hindsight I don’t know how you could have possibly of noticed but still), I’ve been welcomed into the folds of the fine gentlemanly-folks at Awesome Robo! Awesome Robo is an Arts & Entertainment news blog primarily focused on showcasing the work of phenomenal digital and mixed-media artists across the Internet, super awesome animated shorts and music videos, as well as the occasional bad-ass, aesthetically unique video-game titles!

Naturally, for the past two weeks I’ve been writing for these guys, I’ve been over the moon with excitement and possessed with an even more insatiable hunger to share all the cool shit that I think is, well Awesome. But a nagging persistent thought-virus has somehow bypassed the eleven firewalls of euphoria surrounding my personal responsibility cortex, and that thought has become a question,

“What does this mean for ‘Sifting Through Patterns’?”

Naturally, I’ve had this blog-space for over two years now. At first, only sporadically posting the occasional long-form media essay, the overly effusive nerd-gushing of deft computer-mediated-communication, the long-standing but ultimately abandoned Let’s Read series of soul-crushing angst (We’re not talking about the Tor Let’s read here, we’re talking about Oryx and Crake).

So what’s the future of this blog, and where do I want to see it in the future?

The answer is that yes, I am still going to be writing long-form editorial essays nerd-gushing about all the films, books, games and other cool shit that I want. Short-form features however will be re-purposed henceforth to the Awesome Robo initiative, to feed the fuel tanks of our gigantic cavalier Jaegar-bot so that we can stand and fight against the threat of the deadly boredom-inducing Kaiju.

From time to time, I’ll post a bi-weekly update collecting all my Awesome Robo posts to parse through like so much attractive fruit at the farmers market that is the Internet. I’m still doing the Tor Let’s Read, I’m working on a new Modest Proposal following the successful reception towards my Gargoyle one (It’s gonna take awhile though), AND I have a bunch more upcoming long-form essays and feature series I want to boot up as soon as I get the monkey that is my Undergraduate college career off my damn back. And yes, there’s the elusive long-term goal of original short-form fiction writing standing aloof at the cusp of the horizon…Almost there.

As a sign of goodwill for having read-through even a tiny chunk of this post, here are the few articles I’ve posted for Awesome Robo since I’ve started;

So yeah, That’s my Ally Mc-Spiel on that! Looking forward to posting more awesome content in the immediate future, no matter where I hang my hat.

Take it easy,

Toussaint

‘The Stanley Parable’ Incentivizes Player Dissent In Service Of The Bigger Picture

You will play a game you cannot win.

When I played the original Stanley Parable mod back in 2011, I was nothing short of enraptured. That may seem like a hyperbolic compliment at first, but it’s nothing less than the honest truth. I thought that The Stanley Parable was an intelligently crafted, concise and interesting experience that more resembled a thought experiment than a traditional game, and it turned out to be one of my favorite “games” of 2011.

To make an even bolder claim, I’m willing to throw the full brunt of my endorsement behind The Stanley Parable in stating that it may in fact be one of the most important video games to have been released in the past decade. And with the imminent release of the definitive HD remake later this year, I thought it was about time that I write about why I love this game so damn much.

The game is more than just a gleefully tongue-in-cheek take on the emphasis (and futility) of player choice in a deterministic system. it is more importantly a conversation, an interactive repartee between the player’s interactions and the condescending cajoling of a fatalistic Narrator that brings to light the unconscious baggage of assumptions that both players and designers alike bring into creating a game experience.

The Stanley Parable hinges on drawing the player’s attention to the unspoken assumptions of game design subtlety ingrained over the years into the collective gaming community’s unconscious arsenal of navigational/problem-solving strategies.

Stanley’s Cubicle

You play as the eponymous Stanley, a worker drone happily content to “push buttons” and “listen to voices” all day from the safety of his cubicle office. The game opens with Stanley realizing that he is no longer receiving any instruction from his handlers any more and ventures out into the eerily deserted office building in search of answers, all the while accompanied by a mysterious disembodied voice seemingly narrating all of his actions. At any time you can diverge from the beaten path of the narrator’s story, but not without incurring some consequence.

What follows is an experience that is both gratifying hilarious and vaguely terrifying if you think about it too long. The Stanley Parable not only  pushes but outright defies the conventional systems of gratification inherent in almost all commercial video games (see: “choices”, “endings”, “winning”), and instead substitutes it with the opportunity of allowing us, the player, to peer behind the proverbial “fourth wall” of game design and see the great and powerful “wizard” of choice for what it truly is.

A contrivance. A myth. Shadow puppets posing as reality on a wall.

You will follow a story that has no end.

At the same time, even though choice in The Stanley Parable is openly mocked and criticized ( even one of the game’s maxims is ‘You will make a choice that does not matter’), the choices that I made throughout my playthrough(s) of the Stanley Parable meant more to me than most of those I have made in any other commercial video game in recent memory.

When playing modern choice-driven narrative games (ex. Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Skyrim) it’s typical for players to try and consciously ‘game’ the system of a game in order to reap some long-anticipated endgame down the road. Players do mindlessly repetitious tasks ( “pushing buttons”, “listening to voices”) in order to farm currency in order to buy upgrades or weapons with diminishing returns, safely coasting along through starkly color-coded morality systems and unchallenging dialogue trees in order to get the “good” ending. “Good” in this sense meaning “not glaringly cobbled together at the last second by the developers in order to justify the word ‘choice’ featured prominently on the back of their game’s box.”

In contemporary game design, the merit of a choice is weighed by its outcome, with in most cases little to no recognition or actual “involvement” on part of the player’s agency.

The choices in Stanley Parable run counter to this.

The game offers six endings, each of them prompted by a diverging tree of choices that come down to either taking a certain corridor or pressing a certain button. None of these endings is definitive or “canon”; there’s only one ending where the words “The End” are featured, but in no way does it feel like a conclusion. Stanley Parable is a game whose enjoyment and “message(s)” rely on and thrive through replayability.

The difference between choices in Stanley Parable and other contemporary games is that the compensation isn’t some piece of gear or an arbitrary “achievement” pop-up, but the lucidity of watching these past choices and endings from previous “lifetimes” culminate with one another upon repeated breakthroughs, gradually building into a Jenga block tower of an epiphany that can fall apart at any given moment.

The Stanley Parable holds a mirror up to players and ask them to describe what they see. Why do we make the choices that we make? Why do we feel an almost innate desire to “break” a game? Why does playing point to point through a scripted story about rebellion and liberation feel so hollow and contrived?

Those and many more questions are up to the player to pose and perhaps, hopefully, come closer to answering while playing the game.

How I felt after playing the Stanley Parable.

The Stanley Parable follows in the iconoclastic tradition of Jacques Derrida; grappling with norms, demolishing presumptions, and leaving the audience to sift through the rubble to draw their own conclusions. It’s a lamentably rare experience and one of the most important video games of this generation. It is worthy of your notice.