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This is definitely a review of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe
Why would it not be a review of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe?
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is impossible to talk about in-depth without ruining the experience that is The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. In fact, just now I just had to delete a sentence attempting to describe what Ultra Deluxe is in relationship to The Stanley Parable, which released in 2013, because to even describe the relationship between the The Stanley Parable (2013) and The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (2022) is to ruin the entire experience of playing Ultra Deluxe. Instead, I will do the following:
Recommend, if you have a penchant for either metafiction, satire, or literary criticism, that you step right ahead and play The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, even if you played the original.
Proceed to write about the things that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe made me think and feel, without telling you the things it used to make me think and feel those things, because I think even a spoiler break is insufficient with respect to this game, and indeed I would feel it a sin, an honest to capital-G God sin, to spoil the game in such a fashion even for a single person who wants to experience this bizarre, thoughtful, and genuinely funny experience.
Definitely nothing else.
So without further ado, here are a list of things, in no particular order, that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe made me think and/or feel:
This must be what the characters in the stories I write feel like. It’s awful.
That’s clever. That’s funny. That’s clever and funny.
I feel genuinely sorry for upsetting a disembodied narrator to this degree.
Is disobeying a choice when disobedience is an expected potentiality?
What is choice?
What is a story?
What is a player?
What am I?
How do I beat this game?
What does it even mean to “beat” a game? Is it just when you set it down? Are we ever truly done with a game, or do they follow us, shadow-like, into our daily lives, like waking dreams?
Why does this game dislike me so much?
Why does this game understand me so well?
Why does this game respect me to this degree?
Ah, I know exactly what I’m going to write about this game for my biweekly newsletter, Backlog: A Videogame Newsletter for People Who Are Behind on Videogames.
Hmm? That’s new.
Oh no. Now I can’t say any of what I was going to say about this game before.
I can’t write anything about this game.
I need to write something about this game.
What’s the point of writing about games?
What’s the point of writing?
What do we owe our audience?
What do we owe ourselves as creators?
Am I a content creator?
Am I, myself, content?
What is content?
What is art?
What is criticism?
And on. If you’ve made it this far, please accept my sincere thanks for reading what has likely elucidated nothing for you with respect to whether this is a game you should play or not.1 In conclusion, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is a game that can be played.
But, honestly, if you were looking for that kind of thing from me, you should’ve stopped at Item 1 of “I Will Do the Following.” If all you cared about was whether or not to buy this game, that should’ve given you everything you needed. If you still find yourself teetering on the precipice of Buy/Not Buy, then by all means: Buy this game! I think you’ll like it. But is that what we’re doing here? Is that what this is all about? Do you make game purchases based on my thoughts? Or are you just, like, a friend of mine who subscribes to this because I hassled you into doing so? Did we go to grad school together? College? Or are you a high school acquaintance who is happy I stopped arguing with Q people from our hometown on Facebook and started writing about videogames instead? Or are you my dad, who has told me to my face that he has no idea what I’m talking about in these, but does like how I write them, which is a very nice thing for him to say? Or maybe you’re a videogame journalist that I DMed enough over the years in at least a semi-normal fashion that you said: Hey, it’s free, and Grayson seems like a decent guy—what from all his semi-normal DMs—I can at least give him a subscribe. What’s an email, after all? Or maybe you’re one of the exceedingly few people who seemed to find me through the hashtags I put on these when I post to social media. If you are, congratulations! That is indeed the rarest way to have come across this content, if my Substack Dashboard is to be believed. I’ll say this: I sure hope you’re not a bot. That would make me feel rather hollow. But if you are a bot, could you get your bot friends to subscribe, too? But only if they open the emails. That’s what this all about, for me. The open rates. The views. The sheer clicks. Okay, it was also a way to make me feel better about the time I was spending playing videogames, which is another thing that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe made me think about. But not necessarily in a bad way. Also not necessarily in a good way. Just an honest way, really. Which I appreciated. Thanks, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. For the honesty. Anyway, what are you doing still reading this footnote? Surely you have better things to do. I sent this out at 1:00 pm on a Monday, so if you’re reading it right when I send it out, you’re probably at work. Okay, maybe you’re on your lunch break. That’s a funny concept these days, though, isn’t it? “At” work. When work can follow us anywhere, and, indeed, it does just that. When are we ever truly not at work these days, am I right, fellas? At least that’s true of the purported laptop class, of which I am a member. Laptop class. Ha. I think it’s actually kind of funny as a term. As funny as The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. Are you really still here? I’m not even going to edit this that well. The point of it is to test how long you’re even going to spend down here before jumping back up. You can’t even click the little 1 anymore to jump back up to the main body of the newsletter, that’s how long and obnoxious this footnote is. I don’t even think the jumping back up function works in the email version of this newsletter, which is honestly a pretty big oversight for Substack, and something I keep meaning to email them about. But then I think: Surely, they must know that the footnotes don’t work as hyperlinks in email for their email-based newsletter platform. Surely that’s a known bug and not an unknown bug for the company that does the emails. I mean, they’ve got the app now, but I don’t use it, and I suspect others don’t either. Point being: I’m not going to send that email, just like I’m not going to write about the content of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. Is it funny anymore to keep writing the game’s name, down here in the deepest dregs of Backlog, the absolute sewer of what this “publication” is and will ever be? Is this joke even landing for my purported audience of people who have yet to play The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe? If you are my dad, do you still like “how I write them?” I have a lot of questions, and not many answers. And it’s late now, as I’m drafting this. Or, it’s getting close to time to leave for work now, as I’m editing this. Take your pick. Anyway. Whoever you are, could do me a favor? Would you mind scrolling back up and into the newsletter proper? I would recommend using whatever shortcut it is you need to press in order to return to the top of the page. It’ll be faster to get back to where you were that way, I promise. Why are you still reading this? What more do I have to say to tire you? Go away. Go away. Go away. Go—