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The Beginner's Guide is a challenging game about validation and isolation

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I'm still digesting The Beginner's Guide, the spiritual successor to Davey Wreden's meta examination of game design, The Stanley Parable.

There are certainly some similarities between Wreden's 2013 indie hit and The Beginner's Guide — in fact, the game feels somewhat informed by the success of The Stanley Parable, and the expectations that come along with that success. It's a game in which Wreden explores the work of Coda, a game developer acquaintance whose work and life philosophies differ dramatically from Wreden's. In exploring a collection of Coda's games, Wreden struggles to understand and explain those differences, but eventually those explorations turn inward in a way I don't really want to spoil.

It's as untraditional as The Stanley Parable — the game's Steam description warns: "It lasts about an hour and a half and has no traditional mechanics, no goals or objectives." It's just as informative about the creative process, particularly how it pertains to the games industry. But its largest divergence is how it explores Wreden's anxiety about his own work, and about the effects of loneliness on creativity in a really vulnerable way.

The Beginner's Guide is a challenging game, but not for the reasons you might expect. It's a personal and widely relatable story about feeling trapped by your endeavors, and your need to always improve upon those endeavors. It's a game about being frustrated by interpersonal relationships, told through the difficult friendship of Coda and Wreden without explicitly defining where one ends and the other begins.

There's so much to chew on in The Beginner's Guide, and with its "no traditional mechanics, no goals or objectives," the chewing is the game's greatest asset. You can watch one of my favorite chapters from The Beginner's Guide above to get a feel of what the game is, though, to be frank, going in blind and open-minded is probably the right way to go.