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Zach Saucier's thoughts

The AI Stanley Parable is coming

The Stanley Parable

Have you played The Stanley Parable? I highly recommend it if you haven’t.

The Stanley Parable’s gameplay is simple. Most of the gameplay is just walking around, experiencing a somewhat dull office environment, and occasionally interacting with an object or two while a narrator (a non-playable character or NPC) narrates. The player repeats the “same” scenario again and again.

However, depending on the player’s choices and overall state of the game, the scenario will likely change in some way. Variations can include the narrator saying something different, a new opportunity or decision being available, or a different ending.

There’s no competition in The Stanley Parable. There aren’t many rules or even really a way to “win”. One might even call it an experience rather than a game.

While this may sound dull, its surprisingly captivating due to the witty dialogue and absurd paths you can take. Its genius is in its writing and cleverness of options. It has sold over a million copies and received its share of awards.

The AI Stanley Parable?

Now think about the current state of AI. I foresee AIs being used to help create games and experiences like these.

Consider this:

Add them together along with a game engine and a solid theme. Then you have it: An infinite game or experience similar to The Stanley Parable made possible with the help of AI.

You could even use AI to generate music, images, textures, models, or environments. All of these could depend on the previous choices that the user makes.

The Physical Stanley Parable?

It wouldn’t be too hard to make a physical, real world version of The Stanley Parable these days. You could just add one or more things to the above list:

  • You could do a scan (perhaps using Gaussian splatting) of physical spaces and map them into digital space, then run virtual simulations in them.
    • You could use projectors, augmented reality (AR) glasses, or hook up physical machines which the engine has access to have it respond in a physical way.
  • You could track / capture the motion of participants and create digital versions, even pretty realistic ones, that the engine could change or interact with.

An escape room would be an interesting use case—the experience could be different every time and have different levels of difficulty built in.

I’d love to experience something like that!

Crafting valuable content

Of course, a truly worthwhile experience takes time and good thought to craft. Simply using AI to generate more content does not necessarily mean there’s more value added. Even though the concept of The Stanley Parable is simple, it’s the execution that made it truly stand out as something valuable. That execution required immense time, effort, and creativity to create.

Some people are afraid that AI only creates meaningless content. I’d like to point out that there’s plenty of meaningless content that’s created by humans. Even (especially?) at companies with very large budgets and lots of people working on a project, they still create boring and soul-less creations. This can lead to dull games (some would say recent Bethesda games fit in this category) and movies (i.e. the Marvelization of cinema).

Arguably, there’s an even higher risk of empty or meaningless content when you use AI due to the lower cost of creating “new” content and the fact that AI can’t genuinely be as creative as humans can be due to its lack of understanding. However, AI can be a useful tool that decreases the amount of time that it takes to create something valuable or acts within preset bounds to create new and differing experiences that are still worthwhile.

I’m excited to see experiences like these where AI is used to enhance and add value to experiences.

If you’re creating something along these lines, I’d love to hear about it!

P.S. If you like this post, you might like my post about the ultimate wearable.