Panopticism Inside the Workplace

Originally while playing The Stanley Parable, I was very interested in the many different paths and unique endings. The ending that I have chosen to focus my argument towards is the ending where you follow all of the narrator’s commands. I am not as interested in whether or not you press ‘On’ or ‘Off’, in regards to the power switch, but one of the rooms along the way. The layout of the game was set in a generic corporate office. At first, the game appears very bland and unimaginative. You are not given control, but they are easy to figure out. In the meeting rooms there are messages to coworkers about promoting synergy and nixing ideas that are not cost effective; if you could think of a corporate jargon, it was on some poster, slide, or diagram in that room. There is such a stark contrast between the opening setting f the game and the ending scenes in each scenario. The starting point leaves you questioning every door.

Out of all possible outcomes, the most played ending has to be the path of following all of the narrator’s commands. As a first time player, I felt obligated to follow all of the rules and I can imagine many others felt the same way too. This is not to say that many did the complete opposite of the narrator, but eventually everyone came around to following the left door and all of the instructions that came after it. Following all directions seemed like the natural thing to do. When tying to stray from the path, the narrator brought me right back to where he wanted me to be and most times it felt better to satisfy the narrator than to go my own way. There are many places to deviate from the original path, but the argument being made is being made on the least deviant path. This is not a coincidence.

The room that stuck out to me most was the mind control facility. Among all of the other rooms that I was led to along the way, this was one of the first rooms in the game that truly deviated from what I would expect a corporate office to be like. What was so special about this room was not that it was about mind control, but that it had cameras that followed every single person. Immediately the idea of panopticism came to mind; discussions from class reminded me about the unique feature of a panopticon and its similarity to a one-way chalkboard. Each person had their own number to be identified just a prisoner might have. The leaders of the company could keep an eye on every single person in every single corner of the office, but the employees could not see them. The bosses were in complete control and when given a choice to dismantle the system, it all comes crashing down. The game developers are making an argument that in order to have an efficient working society, there must be a panopticon in place.

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4 Responses to Panopticism Inside the Workplace

  1. shupp1217 says:

    This is a rather interesting thought. I do agree with you that there needs to be some sort of panopticon within a corporate work area, but I have also grown to believe that there needs to be a form of freedom. I’ve studied business for two years and have studied many video game studios and tech companies and personally believe the flat hierarchical layout is the best, but it does need some form of power governing over everyone.

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  2. I personally don’t think that the developers were making a positive argument toward anything that the corporation was doing. I always got the feeling that they were being satirical toward big corporations in general. They gave Stanley a useless job that didn’t seem to have any point, and they had a lot of “corporate jargon,” like you said, that seemed to mock corporations. So, although they certainly are making a statement about Panopticism, I don’t think it was a positive one.

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  3. elexiusmusick says:

    Something that this made me think of is the Escape Pod ending. If you have that ending, you see that the windows (in this instance) are actually one-way mirrors, and you can observe the office from the steps leading up to the pod. Pretty creepy, and certainly panoptic.

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  4. jil106 says:

    I don’t quite agree with the argument the game developer made that in order to have an efficient working society, there must be a panopticon in workplace. Since we all have read the circle, there is also panopticon in the circle. It really increasing the work efficiency, however, the workers inside the circle more like a robot instead of human.

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