Review: ‘The Beginner’s Guide’ to Labyrinths and Authorship in Interactive Narratives
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Review: ‘The Beginner’s Guide’ to Labyrinths and Authorship in Interactive Narratives

In 2011, Davey Wreden took the gaming world by storm with “The Stanley Parable.”

Much of the appeal stemmed from its fascinating exploration of storytelling in video games and the conflict that arises within a story when a reader or viewer is given the ability to shape the experience alongside the author.

This created a kind of maze within the game’s narrative structure, in which the frustrated narrator actively critiques the player as they continuously violate the narrator’s instructions for traversing through the game’s world. He laments that the player is ruining the narrator’s story.

This interest in questions of authorship and storytelling within video games once again takes center stage in Wreden’s newest release, “The Beginner’s Guide.”

Without giving too much away, the game’s premise centers around Davey Wreden himself narrating and manipulating the player’s travel through a collection of games made by a fellow developer named Coda.

The experience quickly becomes a captivating journey into the process of game development, with Wreden giving the player an insider’s perspective on functions of puzzles, mazes and the intricacies of pacing. Wreden also elaborates on the various freedoms and limitations a game’s engine has in constructing its world and the ways in which the player can interact within that space.

This insight into the thought process of the game’s creator opens up a great deal of discussion about a developer’s relationship with the player and the way this interaction makes the player in many respects the co-author of the game they are playing. After all, while my interpretation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” certainly impacts the experience I have within the novel, the words on the pages will remain the same regardless of who is reading it.

This in turn raises many interesting questions about interactivity and the way in which communication functions within the medium of the video game.

How does my relationship to an author change when their story becomes both a vehicle for them to speak to me and simultaneously a vehicle for me to speak with them? And what sorts of rules or limitations define the terms of this communication?

These questions and their potential answers along with many, many more are waiting for you in the labyrinthine corridors and passageways of “The Beginner’s Guide.” So step inside, and experience the maze for yourself.

Paul Grosskopf

Reviewer

pgros301@uwsp.edu

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