When I saw the trailer for The Beginner’s Guide, I knew I was going to end up writing an article on it. As the second game from Davey Wreden, the designer behind the hilarious and surreal The Stanley Parable, I looked forward to getting a further look into his sense of humor. While I got that in parts, I’m left here wondering whether or not I actually benefited from playing Wreden’s most recent journey into interactive… something instead of having an experience with The Stanley Parable influence what I thought of it. However, going into it without prior conceptions is impossible: a designer’s reputation and previous works always precedes them, and perhaps that’s what The Beginner’s Guide sets out to tackle. Part of it, anyway.
I’ve been sitting on this, mulling over my thoughts for maybe little over a week now, and I still have no idea how to properly put into words what this game truly is. Is it art? Is it reality? Whether or not Wreden meant the trailer to be misleading, I’m uncertain, but this uncertainty is likewise reflected in just how many questions this game creates, and all the ones it leaves unanswered.
On a base level, yes, okay, the trailer wasn’t exactly lying to its audience. The game is a psychological study of a person through the use of small games that have been developed. When I initially downloaded the game off of Steam, though, I was expecting more of a self-introspection sort of deal, with you, the player, trying to decode several people through a set of games, and then being made to wonder why you would assume such things given a very narrow, vague, detached sense of personhood. That’s still part of the game, but in a different, more uncomfortable way than I was anticipating.
If you have any inclination to play this, please, please do before you drop beneath the cut. Spoilers, and a trigger warning for depression, below.