Let’s tackle a game about validation. What could possibly go wrong with that? Everything probably.
I broke the Steam character limit on this review. Again. I’m really bad about that. But enjoy. I’m trying a different tone to this review, we’ll see how the response is to it.
A Paladin’s Steam Review: The Beginner’s Guide. A Conversation about Validation.
- Genre: First Person Thought Provoking Narrative.
- Developed & Published by: Everything Unlimited LTD.
- Platform: Windows and Mac.
- Business Model: Base Game.
- Copy Purchased by Myself
When The Beginner’s Guide came out last year, I was intrigued by it. The trailer for it was odd and the connection to The Stanley Parable was intriguing. So, I gave it a go recently and I’ve got some thoughts about it. Warning: there will be spoilers in this review due to the short length.
I haven’t done a very good job of covering philosophical leaning titles in the past. The Stanley Parable review mostly amounted to “you should play this if you’re at all interested in the subject matter, period”. Sure, it made me contemplate how we as players interact with games but I didn’t put those thoughts down to paper. Could have done a better job. I reviewed The Swapper last year but it didn’t really talk about the moral about cloning as much as it should have. Now, I have a chance to correct past mistakes. Let’s see if I screw it up again.
I’ve been told recently that my reviews should be more “professional”. That no one gives a damn about my perspective or feelings towards a videogame. That people just want the cold, hard facts and everything else is irrelevant. I find that rather bemusing, you know? Especially when A Paladin’s Review format is exactly about my perspective and feelings towards a selection of videogames that I choose. I created the series to feature games that should (or should not) be played by people. To say nothing about the fact that this is a series of reviews published months, if not years, after a game has come out. When all interest in such a review is probably at its lowest. Of course it’s not going to be the same as everyone else. If I did what others did, I would find myself going the same path that other sites have. Will my path work out? I’m not sure, reviewing videogames is in an uncertain and changing industry. But, I do take exception to people suggesting that I don’t try my hardest to be professional.
I’m sure that some view me as a publicity grabbing contrarian due to how often my reviews often go against the public grain. Do I do it to be contrarian? No. Do I enjoy ripping a game apart? Definitely not. Often my most passionate negative reviews are of games that I felt could have been great, but instead fall so short of their potential. I’m not here to be a contrarian but to give my perspective. A look at videogames months, if not years, after they’ve been released and without the usual hype/anti-hype that surrounds game releases. On titles that I can play a game longer than most and then write a review for it. And I usually have a very good reason for having my viewpoint. That is, after all, the whole point of explaining it in these longer reviews.
You know, I convince myself that I don’t want validation for these reviews. That if even one person reads a review, it’s worth doing. And I still believe that, it’s what keeps me going. However, I’d be lying to myself that I didn’t want validation for it. After all, it’s why I’ll (over)analyze WordPress stats, comments and the post itself after I hit the publish button. It will generally affect how I feel about a review too. I say I don’t want validation but I do want it, even if only a little. As I’ve been reminded recently, I need to remember that all that matters is what I think of myself. Feedback is certainly important to improving but if I’m not happy with myself, then why bother continuing to do this project, right? Right.
Overall Gameplay Thoughts
TBG is a first person narrative video game in a genre that’s often described as a walking simulator. It’s about a player experiencing the narrative the developer wishes to share with minimal interactions. In this case, it’s mostly pressing switches, responding to a very basic conversation system and looking/walking around. It’s a pretty passive experience for an hour and half but there’s enough to keep the player invested.
Narrative Discussion (Spoilers)
The Beginner’s Guide’s narrative is about Davey Wreden showing off the many small games of an unknown developer called Coda. No, not that Coda but I did wonder for a second in the initial opening. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time that indie creators came together on a game. But alas, this is a fictional tale. Davey is doing all of this because Coda quit developing games a while ago. So, Davey is showing the Internet these games and his perspectives about them in a bid to get Coda developing again. As Davey narrates, he talks about how he sees Coda through these small little games. That he thinks they give him an insight to who and what Coda is. However, as the game goes along, I start to get a disturbing sense of where this might be going. This was confirmed at a certain point. Davey talks about how he shared these once private works with others because he thought Coda was depressed and needed help to keep going. That Coda needed validation to pick them up again. As someone who is an introvert, I had a feeling that he had gone too far. Coda confirms my suspicions by breaking all contact with him after giving him a final game to play. In it, Coda states very clearly that Davey has a problem, a need to validate himself through Coda’s works and that Davey had taken things way too far by sharing it with others. That he is under the mistaken impression that he knows Coda through his games. Even worse, he had told others that Coda was depressed because of what he interpreted from a couple of games and had changed them through his own edits because he was unhappy with how the games played out. Even though it was distorting Coda’s work. However, it was a problem Davey must work through, not Coda. While all the time, Davey has been changing the work to suit himself and perhaps shows his own failings while doing so.
Upon finishing the game, I had quite a bit to ponder over. About my role in sharing other individuals’ work and how I review videogames. That maybe I do this entirely for my own selfish reasons of needing validation. Maybe a small part of me does, but it’s not the guiding force. However, I do think the more cynical interpretation that I’ve seen from others, of what is presented in TBG, is perhaps missing the point it’s trying to make. It’s hard to say for certain, of course, but I do think the developer is trying to get the point across….see, it really is that easy to trip up and make the same mistakes Davey makes in the game. I think that this is a game best left up to your interpretation. What the dev may or may not have intended is for him to know. What I can say that I got from TBG is a cautionary tale. That pretending to know someone just based off of their works is dangerous. However, if the point trying to be made is a cynical one about reviewers and how they harm devs or profit off of them, I have one thing to say to that. That I’m in this to share videogames that are worth experiencing I am merely here to talk about and critique what I see as both good and bad ideas in said title. I like to think that what I’m doing is more of a net positive for the developer than myself. But, that’s how I view things. I’m sure some would disagree.
Running off of the Source engine, TBG has all of the expected video, audio and miscellaneous settings that are usually included. Honestly, this game is so short that it’s not really worth listing them all out for you. But if you’ve run a source game like Portal 2 before, then that’s what you can expect to find here. It has good performance and isn’t that demanding to run. I didn’t experience any bugs or issues to report.
Summing everything up, The Beginner’s Guide had given me something to ponder. This collection of short games narrated by a man who may have obsession and personal issues to work through is a different experience. It may be a little bit more cynical of reviewers if one particular interpretation of events holds true or it may just be a disturbing look into Davey’s mentality and personality. Either way, it’s a game that requires a pause to consider the implications of not just other’s actions but our own. And perhaps, that we shouldn’t so quickly judge that we know someone based on their works. The game runs well for it’s 1.5 hour runtime and is really only worth playing the one time. But what a thought provoking time that one playthrough is.
Thank you very much for reading this review of The Beginner’s Guide. If you want, check out other reviews that I’ve done or share this post if you think it’s worthy of other’s attentions. All of it is appreciated.