Originally introduced in theatre and cinema, “breaking the fourth wall”: the idea of the fictional wall being the only thing standing between the actors and audience on stage acknowledging the fictional setting, and their place within it. Video games as an interactive media has adopted this practice through a vast spectrum of genres to further push the boundaries of player immersiveness in ways that can either enhance or disrupt the interactive qualities games inherently possess.. Breaking the fourth wall can have a major impact on the future of how games are made, and there is the potential for deepening story, strengthening player to narrative ties, and enhancing player immersion within a game.
The Stanley Parable’s premise is that you are playing through a game with infinite endings. The game is aware of its own fictionality and incorporates the player into the fiction. It reprimands you, the player, if you go off the path the narrator sets for you by purposely exposing unfinished aspects of the game. It constantly switches perspectives of yourself, Stanley, and the very fabric of the walls around you. Your direct interference into the game causes it to malfunction in various ways depending on how far you choose to disobey the narrative path, playing on philosophical and meta discussions surrounding gaming culture, and the player’s incessant need for control and best possible outcomes. It challenges players to ponder if games are meant to be beat, or even leisurely as it’s dark themes and frustrating constraints amplify anxiety throughout the experience.
However sensational meta-gaming has become in recent gaming trends, it’s implication is not the sole method to create an impactful narrative in unexpected and unique ways. In Gone Home, the narrative is particularly linear with no multiple endings, but part of its immersiveness is in the subtle way it encourages players to engage with clickable (narrative filled items) which rewards players with more context to the story before reaching the end credits. While the end result is always the same, the forced slow pace and collectible style mechanics gives the player the illusion of control and a sense of a larger scale. Unlike the Stanely Parable which requires the player to reflect on themselves and their choices, Gone Home is the experience of a sister experiencing the emotions and life of her younger sister through collecting her personal items. When framed in this context both exhibit a sense of metafictional style, but implement it in very different ways.