rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (Default)
[personal profile] rynet_ii
The Beginner's Guide is a video game made by the same guy who did The Stanley Parable, something which actually happens to be one of my favorite games, and considering that it's a little hard for me not to just turn this into a straight up comparison post.

But anyway, The Beginner's Guide itself is basically you, walking through a series of artsy short video games while Davey Wreden guides you through and narrates the games and his thoughts on them. The games are ostensibly a series of private projects made by an old friend of Davey's called Coda, created between 2008 and 2011, and the narration encourages you to think about the games and what was going on in Coda's mind while he was making them.

Sort of. It subverts the hell out of this and the further on in the game you go, the more obvious it becomes that the game's more about Davey, about Davey's feelings about Coda, and about Davey's feelings about being a creator, than it is about whether or not Coda was actually dealing with his own mental issues (apart from his probable discomfort over Davey's attempts to use his relationship with Coda and Coda's games as a source of validation and a way to soothe his own self-loathing.) Especially considering that it's offhandedly revealed that parts of the games- theoretically crucial parts of the games what's more- were designed by Davey and not Coda. And you could probably take the relationship between Davey and Coda as a big ol' metaphor for the conflict between creating art for art's sake and art for the audience's sake.

It's uh, a thing. 

Personally in terms of "art about art" video games, I preferred The Stanley Parable which, while also pretty satirical and dark in places and poked a lot at the inherent artificiality of video games, was designed to be explored and interacted with a lot more. The Beginner's Guide, on the other hand, is more linear. You pretty much just go where Davey points you and listen to him talk. (Which, okay, I know TSP already had a trailer making fun of the "you don't actually do much attitude.)

Which I think sums up part of why The Stanley Parable and Undertale both work better for me as video-games-about-video-games than The Beginner's Guide seems to: those play around a lot more with the player's input and role in the game, and thus hit more on what makes video games so unique compared to other art forms. Video games aren't like books or movies: they require the audience to do things in order for everything to progress. So when you make a video-game-about-video-games and then limit the player's ability to interact with the game too much, I feel like the work is a lot more likely to fall flat or ring hollow for your audience.

(If you've played or watched a playthrough of The Beginner's Guide then you might be thinking "Well, Rynet's definitely more of a Davey than a Coda." Heh.)

Which isn't to say I didn't find The Beginner's Guide interesting and also kind of fucked up: I just feel that as far as video-games-about-video-games go it wasn't the most interesting example out there? Outside of the twist that "Davey is most likely the far more mentally disturbed of the two characters," and the "Art for Art's Sake vs. Art for the Audience's Sake" theme, there... doesn't feel like a whole lot to it. Might be worth a look if you find narratives about dysfunctional relationships interesting though.

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rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (Default)
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