In 2011, a budding game creator named Davey Wreden released a free modification for Half-Life 2 named The Stanley Parable. This mod was discovered through word of mouth by William Pugh, an independent game designer who had experience creating environments using the Source engine. Noticing that Mr. Wreden was seeking suggestions for improvement, the two of them began collaborating, eventually turning The Stanley Parable into a standalone game. The project found its way onto the game distribution platform Steam in 2013 via their Greenlight service. The game was met with nearly universal critical praise, with many reviewers calling it a masterful deconstruction of the nature of choice in video games.
Having found an audience, Mr. Wreden began developing a follow-up to his acclaimed work, which he would complete in 2015. Unlike The Stanley Parable, this new game, The Beginner’s Guide, was released with little fanfare; its existence was only made known to the world a mere two days prior. The gaming press gave Mr. Wreden’s sophomore effort many accolades; Gamasutra highlighted him as one of the top ten game developers of the year, and he was nominated for two Independent Games Festival awards. In both instances, critics cited his scenarios as thought-provoking and able to change the way people look at games. It’s impressive he managed to catch their attention twice in a row amid worries that The Stanley Parable would be a tough act to follow. Does it truly escape its predecessor’s shadow and shine as an example of good video game storytelling?