[The Stanley Parable spoilers abound. You have been warned. There is a spoiler-free review here.]
The Narrator thought I wanted to kill myself to escape. He was right.
He thought I wanted to escape him and the world he had created, but he was wrong about that much.
In The Stanley Parable I killed myself because the only other option was to stand in a round room and watch pretty lights until…forever?
In real life I want to kill myself because my day-to-day, week-to-week existence isn’t too dissimilar to that room. My existence is static, my environment never changes, and I fill my time with just enough pretty things to make it bearable.
Beyond that round room is the stairway to heaven. As you climb those stairs for a third time the Narrator pleads with you to stop. He sounds genuinely distraught – not because he doesn’t want you to die, but because he wants you to experience life in the way he wants, in the way he intended.
When you’re depressed and you think about suicide constantly it’s often the thoughts of friends and family that will give you pause. They would plead with you not to, they would want you to see and experience life the way they do so that you want to live. Their narrative is more important than yours.
The Stanley Parable taught me that if you try and kill yourself twice and fail, on the third attempt the others will stop caring, and you’ll succeed.
At another point the Narrator will simultaneously congratulate and ridicule me for killing myself. I’m powerful and in charge of my own destiny, and the only way I can express that is to die. But of course, even that great and powerful choice was signposted by the game. Is it still suicide if you’ve been told you can do it?
In The Stanley Parable the end is never the end, but those digital suicides still haunt me.
* * *
The Narrator laughed when I opened the door to my apartment and was greeted by a mannequin. “Who’d want to commit their life to you?”
I met my ex-girlfriend and a mutual friend for dinner in the week. Things were fine at the meal, but my head has been a tangled mess of anxious thoughts since, as it was beforehand. She seems happy, she seems fulfilled, she couldn’t possibly know how completely and how terribly she broke me because I’m still only discovering that for myself as the months roll by.
She’s working, she’s exercising, she’s going to buy a one bedroom place, and meanwhile I’m standing in a pretend unit with a pretend-pretend girlfriend while an omnipotent narrator belittles my shitty little existence of repetition, routine and rules. If I hadn’t already come to the same realisation in the past couple of weeks, this might have been a deeper and altogether darker sequence.
Besides death through malnutrition and personal negligence, has a game ever actually driven a person to suicide?
He berates my predilection for doing what I’m told and tells me to press a button. It’s a stalemate as I sit and stare at the screen, my protest going unnoticed by the usually-talkative Narrator. He knows I’ll cave, because the only other option is to quit.
In The Stanley Parable, sometimes the only way to win is to not play… Or to hit restart from the menu, if you just don’t like where it is going, but aren’t quite ready to stop.
If you’re in a vulnerable place, The Stanley Parable might be the last thing you need to experience… Or perhaps the first. I’m still trying to decide.
You are not alone. You are not a piece of shit. You are not weak for feeling depressed. You might be broken now, but you are not beyond repair.
Seek professional help. Seek out your friends.
Death is not the answer and it’s not a choice. It’s the lack of an answer, it’s the removal of choice. You deserve better than that, even if you can’t see it right now.