Museums and Death

My blog post references the Museum Ending of the Stanley Parable.

One of the better conclusions to the Stanley Parable is the Museum Ending. When players decide to take the “escape route” instead of going to the Mind Control Facility, they are presented with an enlightening monologue given by a new female narrator. In this monologue she says, “When every path you can walk has been created for you long in advance, death becomes meaningless, making life the same”.

 

A powerful phrase from a game whose main focus seems to be humor and satire. I thought to myself why would they even incorporate this in the game. But as I began to analyze it more, I reflected back to the in-class discussion on whether to jump off the ledge or use the lift to safely cross. More so, I reflected on my decision to allow Stanley to die.

 

“Death becomes meaningless.”

 

Although I’ve never played the game before, I knew there was a chance that Stanley would die from the fall. However, I was still encouraging my classmates around me to take that chance. My reasoning behind this was if Stanley did die, we would either start at the beginning or the same place. And because we were relatively close to the beginning, it would only take a minute to get back to where we were. It seemed as if death was trivial, so what did it matter if we jumped off this ledge? How did Stanley’s death affect me? His death, at worst, would only be a slight loss of time. Even if this jump did result in death, I could easily go back to the same room and chose a different option. Ultimately, regardless if he were to live or die from this jump, the narrative would stay the same because each decision had already been scripted, so why not jump out of curiosity?

What I like about this ending compared to the others I finished, which include the Freedom Ending and the Insanity Ending, is that while the narrator’s notion of death can be applied to the game itself, it can also be used as a reference to other Indie games like Dear Esther and Gone Home.

“DEATH BECOMES MEANINGLESS!”


I have a question. What do Dear Esther and Gone Home have in common? No, its not the fact that they are both my walking simulators or that both games have multiple narratives. The similarity I was looking for is that you cannot die. In Dear Esther if you make a mistake and kill the character, you are not penalized. You only get a black screen with the phrase “Come back” whispered before you see the light of the island again. Further, Gone Home does not allow Katie to die. But the more essential question is does it take away from the narrative or the meaning of the game? I would argue no. Unlike World of Warcraft where death influences gameplay, Indie games like Dear Esther and Gone Home use exploration to influence gameplay. By taking the notion of death out of the game, it allows players to focus on more important aspects of the game like the narrative for example. As a player advances through the game, they do not have to worry about making a mistake and dying. They do not have to tediously start at the graveyard, find their dead body, escape their enemies, and repair their armor before they are able to prepare for battle again. (Note: Just using Warcraft as an example I understand that all games are not like this). In Indie games such as the three we have played, when a player dies the game restarts and the course of the narrative remains uninterrupted. Any progression made before is only momentarily halted. Simply put, death is truly meaningless.

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6 Responses to Museums and Death

  1. ttakoushian says:

    I think it’s interesting that you agree that in games, “death is meaningless” because I took this exact phrase in a different direction. I too had the museum ending where you decide that you will jump and the fall will kill Stanley. And while in the mechanics of the game death is meaningless, isn’t it important to take our choice of letting Stanley die as something to dissect. It’s important to think about why we are curious to see Stanley die. If death is completely meaningless, we wouldn’t be curious, would we? I’m simply playing devil’s advocate, but I think the phrase “death is meaningless” in the game is only put there to make the audience really think about our choices of letting Stanley die out of our own selfish curiosity.

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  2. estraussman says:

    I think what is truly interesting about death as a mechanic is that gamers expect as a component. In games that defy logic, why is it so essential death is addressed? Is it because we require death as a realistic aspect of a simulation of life even though no person playing has ever experienced it? If death is truly meaningless, it would be taken out of the games all together. I think the fact that death is identified as meaningless in the game says more about the importance of death as a necessity to root an inherit lack of logic to the game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pittpanther8 says:

      I also think that it is interesting that gamers require death to be completely realistic when so many other game mechanics are not held to the same standard. Can you imagine if we had to stretch before running in a game or sleep after a number of hours logged?

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  3. pittpanther8 says:

    I thought that this was a very interesting line because if death was already scripted, I would have expected it to say life is meaningless because we are waiting to die. By taking out the consequences behind dying, it allows for more explorative and daring lives.

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  4. narrativeandtech says:

    I think death could be looked at another way. I don’t think the narrator simply means that death has no consequence when she says that death becomes meaningless. I think she means that a meaningless existence is equal to death. It doesn’t really matter if you jump off the cliff or not, Stanley was technically dead already. By mindlessly obeying a computer all his life, he never technically lived, he was never truly sentient.

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  5. I took this ending in a more pessimistic way, in that it’s a statement on depression. Realistically, if Stanley was a real person, he would have to be horribly depressed. He has an awful job, and is mocked by the narrator for not having a wife or kids (in the phone ending). Thus, death would literally be meaningless, because the void of death (I’m ignoring religion for this argument, pardon me) couldn’t be any better or worse than his life now.

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