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The ‘Parable’ of Stanley’s success: indie game is “re-imagined” a decade later

When it comes to independent game development, the process can often be long and complicated, which is definitely the case for The Stanley Parable. Originally, the game was released as a free ‘mod’ for Half-Life 2 back in 2011, while the full version was announced the following year. Now, a decade after the game’s inception, an Ultra Deluxe edition has been released to commemorate the achievements by developers Davey Wreden and William Pugh, as well as to provide additional content for fans of the original game. But why was this game a stand-out success compared to other indie games at the time, and what keeps fans coming back for more 10 years after the game’s initial release?

After The Stanley Parable was released, it was celebrated as “an overnight internet sensation”, and was praised for its thought-provoking themes, which mostly revolved around the idea of predestination and whether individuals have any control over their actions. One of the most notable aspects was the narration by British actor Kevan Brighting, who has also provided voiceover work for games like Black Mesa, The Captain is Dead, and Void Bastards, which has been complimented for both the depth of storytelling and the ability to construct a relationship with a mute protagonist. It also became popular among the online gaming community, as Stanley’s many story branches and endings added to its endless replayability, which also meant it could provide hours of content for streamers and ‘let’s play’ YouTubers.

In many ways, Stanley Parable was able to reach success due to the growing audiences of gaming YouTube channels, as it was endorsed by popular content creators Jacksepticeye and Markiplier. It ushered in the era of games being developed with the goal of appealing to ‘let’s players’ and symbolises the shift towards marketing to online gaming communities, as opposed to conventional game critics. This is referenced in the Ultra Deluxe edition of the game, which comments on how negative Steam reviews can detract from an overall positive critical response: unlike when the original game was released, we’re now living in the internet age of gaming.

The updated version is packed full of content that will keep old fans coming back for more

Another way that the game was able to triumph was due to its use of popular gaming mechanisms at the time. Creating a game with multiple narrative pathways was fashionable in the early 2010s, evident by the success of Heavy Rain (2010), Life Is Strange (2015), and The Walking Dead (2012). However, The Stanley Parable was unique in that it highlighted problems in story-driven games at the time and provided criticism of narrative constructions through the use of satire and parody. Video game blog VG2/47 remarked that the game “takes the very limitations of traditional gaming narratives and uses them to ruthlessly expose their own flaws.”

Although the game was originally developed in 2011, it has been able to retain popularity due to its timeless nature and the uniquely linear-yet-non-linear style of gameplay. When the Ultra Deluxe edition was released, it sold more than 100,000 copies on Steam within the first 24 hours of being available. While the 2013 release of the game already had so many easter eggs and achievements that it was a challenge to find them all, the updated version is packed full of content that will keep old fans coming back for more without excluding new players from the original experience. The game developers know and understand their audience in a way that many modern creators, who have become disconnected from their original fanbase, fail to do so.

If you’re interested in picking up a game that’s as insightful as it is entertaining (although it won’t appeal to those who love lots of action or grinding for skills), it’s definitely worth picking up the Ultra Deluxe edition over the standard version, as it isn’t necessary to play the original game first. The expanded re-imagining of the critically acclaimed, award-winning indie game The Stanley Parable is out now on multiple platforms and consoles.


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