The Beginner's Guide

Screenshot

First Impressions

The Beginner's Guide is an interesting game where one is free to explore a variety of small, seemingly incomplete games developed by someone named Coda. Coda is a friend of Davey Wreden, the designer of The Stanley Parable. Davey Wreden narrates the game and talks to the player about Coda and each small game as the player explores. There are no complex mechanics involved. All there is to do is explore each game and listen as Wreden talks. This naturally leads the focus of the game to be on Wreden's narration and the story of Coda. The Beginner's Guide seems to be aimed primarily at people who enjoy games with a strong narrative and either don't care much for or are indifferent towards the complex mechanics that make up modern games.

 

Going Further

As I progressed throughout the game, I began to understand the deeper narrative and began to pick up on what was assumed at the time to be the mental state and personality of Coda, especially as hinted by Wreden. As I went along, I found myself more and more impressed by the design of the small games presented and I found myself sympathizing strongly with Coda. I also found Wreden's narration to be good and the level design was interesting and novel enough to keep me interested.

Towards the end of the game, Coda's games become darker in theme, to the point where Wreden feels uncomfortable talking about it. Despite this, I can't help but sympathize with Coda, as described by Wreden. At the same time, I couldn't help but sympathize with Wreden's thoughts about how he wanted desperately to help Coda. At this time, the level designs grew more complex and Coda's thoughts, as described by Wreden, seemed to grow darker and darker.

The big "twist" in the game was fairly obvious, at least to me. The hints about it that Wreden gave towards the end were not subtle and I was able to pick up on them quickly. This is the only real criticism of the narrative that I have. While the big "twist" was still fairly impactful to me, I feel as if it wasn't hinted at in such an obvious manner, it would have been even more impactful. Regardless, this, combined with the apparent changes in the themes behind Coda's games, gave The Beginner's Guide a strong narrative, something that I did not think was present in the game, especially having heard about the game as one where you explore unfinished games. After this, the tone behind Wreden's narration changes drastically and, despite sympathizing strongly with Coda for the majority of the game, I was still sympathizing with Wreden. This was not the first time this happened. I found both people easy to sympathize with for the entirety of the game, and I feel as if the feelings portrayed are feelings that most, if not all, people have felt at one point in their life.

Overall, The Beginner's Guide offered some interesting ideas about game development, especially level design, while providing a compelling narrative that allows people to easily sympathize with all the people involved.

- JB