“The Milgram Parable” refers in both its text and its presentation to Stanley Milgram’s famous psychology experiment and 2013 computer game “The Stanley Parable.” It’s an interesting idea for a game, but it’s ultimately unsatisfying to play.
Gameplay: The game comprises two sections. In the shorter first one, you answer questions about the morality of someone participating something reminiscent of Milgram’s original experiment; in the latter, the protagonist joins a military mission in a sci-fi setting. The first half has a clever twist to it, but the second half is played straight. The game doesn’t drawn any real conclusions about it, though, and I’m not sure what its intentions were. Was it trying to suggest that Milgram was threatening or deceiving (beyond the obvious experimental setup) the participants in his experiment? Was it making the argument that some situations are so complicated and involve so many actors that it’s hard for the person who actually has to push the button or shoot the gun to judge their morality? Was it just a narrative about people who get stuck in unpleasant situations outside their control? I was looking for a deeper message or a more detailed argument, and I didn’t come away from the game thinking that it raised any questions or provided any answers. 3/10.
Mechanics: In neither situation, the player has opportunity to change the course of the game. In the first half, the player is mostly offering commentary on someone’s actions, rather than taking them directly; in the latter, the narrator is coerced by the people around him into following orders. That fits with the subject of the game, but the idea of making an interactive fiction game deliberately non-interactive is a pretty common one at this point, featuring in “Rameses,” “Depression Quest,” and even “Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment” from this year’s IFComp. It’s not inherently a bad idea, but it’s enough to base a game on without some other cleverness or enthusiasm behind it. It’s a simple choice-based game that’s set up well, but I found the experience of actually playing it disappointing. 4/10.
Presentation: I didn’t notice any errors in the text, and the cover art and first section have nice aesthetics. 5/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You find Milgram’s original experiment compelling.