The Milgram Parable

by Peter Eastman

2019

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
a message lost in analogy, February 1, 2021

the game is divided into two parts: first, a brief "orientation," where you play through a short mockery of The Stanley Parable. (mockery, not parody, because it doesn't really have anything to say about Stanley.)

you're set up with the familiar electric-shock button of the Milgram Experiment, but given absolutely no information about what's going on, why you're doing what you're doing, and so on. it turns out (Spoiler - click to show)it's intended to make you think Stanley is good and right for obeying orders without thinking, since that's what the military wants you to do in the field. it does this in an obnoxious and manipulative way, but given this is supposed to be an in-universe software program you're playing, that's obviously intentional and indicates the kind of organization you've signed up for.

the second and longer part has the player as part of a sci-fi military. while they have joined up intentionally, they know nothing about the organization, its goals, its mission, what they'll be doing, etc., etc. the military is authoritarian and delivers orders that are to be immediately followed. (Spoiler - click to show)it is logical that such an organization would offer the previous orientation, because they want you to think that your orders are always for the best, like Stanley's were.

unfortunately, during this second portion, (Spoiler - click to show)you really only have one meaningful choice. everything is binary; either follow orders (or implied orders) or disobey. disobeying just gets you yelled at before the thing you refused to do happens anyway. the only actual choice you have is whether to keep fighting when the enemy surrounds you, and these choices amount to "get shot in battle" or "get shot because the other military is as authoritarian as yours."

so, what is the message here? is it saying that we are wrong to obey blindly and follow authoritarians? hard to credit when it makes no difference either way. is it saying that we should obey, since the results will be the same regardless and obedience is the path of least resistance? that's a little hard to swallow, but i suppose it could be the intent. many people do think that way (or end up thinking that way after brainwashing). but the milgram experiment is usually cited as a rebuke to that line of thinking.

the lack of clarity or any real interactivity would usually merit one star. however, the writing itself is so good that i'm bumping it up to two. it's just too linear to be interesting, and the meaning too muddled.