But is there really a free choice? Going through the door on the left means admitting defeat to the Narrator and following his instructions while the right means going against the Narrator, but what if that’s what he wanted to do all along? No matter what you do, the Narrator has already predetermined your choice and will adjust his “story” accordingly. How do we know Stanley even exists? Here’s the better question, who is Stanley?
“Cogito Ergo Sum”
“I think of therefore I am”
A famous quote by the Rationalist philosopher, Descartes. Just like Stanley, Descartes questioned his existence. Was everything he experienced just the experience of an all knowing, all-seeing narrator? Did he even exist outside of office 427? Descartes asked the question, “What can I know to be true beyond all possible doubt?”
If I can doubt myself, then I am thinking. If I am thinking, then I must exist. I am a thinking thing, or “Res cogitans”
Well, allow me to shed some light on the subject.
What the narrator is referring to is an idea we call, “Phenomenological Experience”, or Phenomenalism. It is the belief that we do not exist outside of our senses. The only things you know are things that exist in your mind and things that you can smell, taste, hear, etc. Every person perceives reality differently. Some people see more colors than others, some people see less. Some people can’t see at all. Some people can hear incredibly well while others have incredibly tuned palettes. Each of our experiences are different, therefore, each of our existences are different.
Stanley is going through an existential crisis. “Everything must exist because I can see it. I’ve lived it. I can touch the keyboard on my desk, I can smell the coffee in the breakroom, I can hear my coworkers laughing outside of my office. Of course I exist.” This belief is otherwise known as “Solipsism”. You are the only existent being and everything around you is produced by you.
This motif of isolation is carried from the very beginning of the game.
So what part does the Narrator play in all of this? Why is he there? Why does he dictate everything you do? Why is this, “his story”? For that, we need to visit the very last ending.
Stanley and the Narrator depend on one another. The Narrator depends on Stanley to follow his choices to tell his “story” while Stanley depends on the Narrator to fulfill his own sense of control in his life. It’s a constant circular back-and forth between the two characters. But if you really think about it, is it?
No matter what Stanley does, there are only 2 choices. Stanley either do what he says or doesn’t. There’s even an ending where the Narrator gives him a “3rd option”. (15:46). But it isn’t. You either follow his “3rd option” or go through the other doors. Stanley has no free will. Everything is predetermined for him. From the moment he presses start, the path of all of his choices have been already made. But wait, Stanley doesn’t press start. You were the one to press start. Wait….
Yes. You are Stanley. This idea is even reinforced in this ending (11:50). You’re following the given directions without questioning why. If you don’t do what he says, nothing progresses. The story stands still. Why?
A Parable is a story that supposed to teach a moral or spiritual lesson. I hate to put the final nail in the coffin, but there is no free will. Life is a just a myriad of ultimatums that pass by. You either choose to do something or you don’t. Until you die. But guess what? The end is never the end.
September’s Indie Box featured the Stanley Parable. The box featured a physical copy of the game on a CD, a mousepad, business cards, soundtrack, and a tie.
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