Played on PC (Steam)
The Beginner’s Guide can be completed in about an hour and a half. There are no unlockables, achievements or any sort of additional content beyond the main experience.
Minimum player interactivity is required and you could tangibly count the number of button presses made during the entire game.
There is no combat, no danger, no health, no threats and no platforming. There is exactly one puzzle.
I realise that listing all the things TBG hasn’t got isn’t the best sell, but I can honestly say that my experience was unlike any other game I have played. This apparent lack of content is very much tied to the game’s theme.
The playtime appears to be deliberately within the steam refund period, allowing the option of a full refund even after the game has been experienced in its entirety.
I have no idea if I will ever play this game again, but I want to keep it in my library. It would be interesting to replay whenever (or if) more insight is provided about its creation by the developer.
This odd ability to allow for a refund could very well relate to how the player might feel about the game on reaching its conclusion. TBG will evoke different reactions, some may not necessarily be positive. The refund option seems to be an understanding by the developer that not all may like what he has to say.
Davey Wreden is the creator of The Beginner’s Guide. You may not recognise the name, but if I said ‘The Stanley Parable’ then you probably recognise the game. Wreden was a Co-Creator of The Stanley Parable and there are similarities that can be seen between it and TBG.
As with The Stanley Parable you wander through a world with only the company of a narrator, but this is where the similarities end.
TBG is not funny, nor is it about agency in video games. In the most vaguest sense TBG is about creation, meaning and perception.
Wreden has a very specific goal with TBG, one that is so honestly communicated that it’s almost uncomfortable.
One may argue that if a person wanted to make a point without audience participation then they could simply make a movie. However, the very exploration of the levels and world in which they are contained is a key requirement for the game to deliver its message.
I’m now at an awkward point where I realise that being more specific would risk spoiling the game, but also realise that I haven’t quite described any unique features.
I think that may be the point though – the game is ostensibly simple with very little in the way of mechanics, but this just amplifies it’s enormous depth. You wander through levels while the narrator speaks until you reach the end, and that’s pretty much it. What is of importance is your interpretation of the journey.
This may all sound like artsy nonsense and, as with myself and likely a lot of people, a little faith is required when making the purchase.
I noticed a common statement in reviews and community posts that TBG will mean different things to different people – which I feel is true. At one point during the game I was near tears and at another I was approaching genuine anger, but on both occasions it was because the game was evoking emotions and memories of my own life.
That’s why it’s difficult to foresee how each individual will react. Some may feel sad or sympathetic on the game’s conclusion while others may be infuriated for just having participated. Some may not care, while others may not be sure how they feel, or just feel strange – and all these emotions can be justified.
I enjoy cooking foreign foods, most of which are unusual to my friends and family. Some enjoy these meals while others hate them and veil the dislike behind comments of it tasting ‘different’. Either reaction is fine by me because I know it’s something that they have never tried.
This is how I wish to disclaim The Beginners Guide. You may love it, you may hate it, but you won’t have experienced anything like it before.