The Baby Game

The Stanley Parable is a game about choices and (defying)expectations. Nearly every choice presented has an effect on the story that a player experiences. The game is a story about the player’s decisions, not Stanley’s since he’s just a puppet controlled by the player. The narrator wants Stanley to follow his instructions in order to “find the story”, yet a large amount of the story can only be found by disobeying the narrator at least once. Constant disobedience will eventually bring Stanley to the baby game.

The art ending or baby game ending in The Stanley Parable requires a player to continually press buttons for 4 hours straight(Unless you cheat like I did). I think this ending shows that game testers are under-utilized and overworked, and that if a game does not improve based on feedback from its QA testers it probably won’t be any good. The narrator presents the baby game after asking Stanley whether adding a third choice (to the first room with two doors) improved his game experience on a scale of 1 to 5. The baby game asks the player to press a button to prevent a baby from crawling into a fire(making terrible noises on every press), the narrator claims that “It’s a very meaningful game – all about the desperation and tedium of endlessly confronting the demands of family life… But, of course, the message of the game only becomes clear once you’ve been playing it for about four hours.” After 2 hours of pressing the button the narrator introduces another button that keeps a puppy from getting eaten by piranhas, and finally after 2 more hours the screen goes white and you are presented with this text:.

The baby game ending criticizes the modern game development cycle. Many game developers ask the same sort of questions of their testers that the narrator in The Stanley Parable does: on a scale of 1-5 how enjoyable was X mechanic. Game testers are often given tedious tasks, are paid very little, and are considered easily replaceable. Game designers and producers only expect QA testers to find bugs, not give meaningful feedback on the game itself, and any real criticism from testers is usually ignored. Testers end up doing the same tasks over and over for hours on end. When a designer refuses to listen to criticism from the people he/she hired to test their game, they waste time and money working on a faulty game. Annual AAA game franchises frequently run into these sorts of problems, for example, Assassin’s Creed Unity. I have no doubt that Ubisoft had at least a hundred testers working on the game, yet it still released with many game-breaking issues. Another game studio, CD-Projekt Red has yet to release a game that hasn’t been met with positive reviews. The director and lead quest designer for CD Projekt’s upcoming game The Witcher 3 both started as lowly QA testers for the original Witcher game. TL;DR, video game QA testing can be like playing the baby game for hours with no overtime pay.

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2 Responses to The Baby Game

  1. Steph Roman says:

    This is a great reading of the “art” ending. QA people are forced to do exactly this, for almost no money, and they have to sign their dignity away with various NDAs. They’re easily replaceable.
    Note that the Narrator calls you out and accuses the player of cheating, which kind of defeats the purpose. I appreciate the duality of this ending—that maybe it really IS about the tedium/monotony of family life, but it could also be a valuable metaphor about playtesting. Nice post.

    Like

  2. A very perceptive and convincing reading.

    Like

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