The Beginner's Guide (2015) is a narrative game where you explore a series virtual environments while the game's creator tells a story about the person who made each space. This introspection presents a raw and at times heartbreaking look into the mind of the narrator. Rather than presenting characters and landscapes that invite us to discover a video game world, we are instead intended to discover who it was that made them.
The game is short and, although there is some puzzle solving, doesn't allow you to get stuck or to fail. You are swept along on the stream of consciousness and quick-fire video game spaces. Rather than getting to the end or making meaningful decisions, what's of interest here is how we can interpret what we have encountered.
"What makes The Beginner's Guide work so well," said Jeffrey Matulef in his review, "is that Wreden's quest is an inexorably human one that touches upon several universal struggles: How do you get to know someone who doesn't want to be known? How do you respond to a seemingly kindred spirit who may not be as relatable as we think? How do we interpret others by placing ourselves in their shoes when we're still trapped in our own heads?"
By the end of the game you will have faced these and other questions. They coalesce around the games central tenant: the story of a person struggling to deal with something they do not understand.
The experience grants this idea space to ruminate, develop and even challenge the bounds of the genre. What starts as a video game becomes an investigation about reclusive artists, criticism of the desire to turn creators into celebrities. Even a challenge to collating video games in databases such as this one -- questioned as a vanity project where the creator gains status by association with the art he curates.
Our examiner, Andy Robertson
, first checked The Beginner's Guide 2 years ago. It was re-examined by Jo Robertson
and updated 14 months ago.