The Milgram Parable

by Peter Eastman


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Number of Reviews: 4
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1-4 of 4

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
a message lost in analogy, February 1, 2021
by cgasquid (west of house)

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.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Allegory with a hint of story, August 3, 2020
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric

Starting with the story of Stanley Milgram's psychological experiments, The Milgram Parable reads like an allegory, using the setting of a corporate militia. All the elements are there: unquestioning obedience, limited information and one to one meetings with superiors. I guess the sporadic binary choices come with the narrative territory, too.

So the game forces you to make increasingly abstract choices. Showing compassion at the start of the game yields the admonishment that you are quick to judge using very little information; this is what the game forces you to do. Ironic? Purposeful? Maybe. The scope of the game is so narrow, the stakes and emotional impact so vague, that the decisions start to feel academic.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Spend less time telling me how I'm feeling, December 2, 2019

This game left me bristling with indignation, and I can't tell whether it was the subject matter or the way it was handled.

The fiction is competently executed. The writing is clear, and the author evokes specific themes and moral challenges without descending into bloated, over-wrought exercises in highly detailed tedium.

Interactively, it's a friendly gauntlet structure. The player has some agency to affect the story outside of key decision points that will always be used to set up specific dilemmas. And that's a great structure! It is often used to effectively provide interactive opportunities while confining a game's scope to a manageable size.

My major grumble is the way that The Milgram Parable works to present pairs of flawed options (or in one case, no options at all) before scolding the player's choice. It kept reminding me that I was in an exercise contrived someone else, reinforcing that the easiest way to win was by not playing. The repeated references to the Milgram experiment, and its concerns about justifying terrible things by "just following orders," undercut the idea of questioning my morality.

I especially resented the way that the game kept telling me how to feel. “What are you doing here? What have you gotten yourself into?” The game does not need to ask me these questions. Reading “You wish you knew more about what was going on” was irritating; there’s a subtle-but-important difference between me wishing I knew what was going on and the author telling me that I wish I knew more. Lines like these kept reinforcing the idea that me, the guy at the computer screen, was not the same person as the character in the adventure.

(Spoiler - click to show)I was exceptionally annoyed when I was told “You have no choice. Truly no choice at all,” after shooting the kid. I was quite aware that the choice was taken from me by the author, which circles back to my earlier point about this game spending too much time telling me how I was supposed to feel.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An exploration of the Milgram experiments as a Twine game, October 2, 2019

This game has two parts: a simple introduction and more complicated sci-fi portion.

Both parts are related to the infamous Stanley Milgram experiments, where participants were asked to administer what they thought were increasingly strong electrical shocks to strangers.

This game is moralizing strongly, which isn't bad in and of itself. It offers some nuance: what if we misunderstand the situation? What if we don't really have free will?

But it's slight, overall, and not strong enough, in my mind, to bear up the heavy moral implications it communicates. I think this would be more appropriate as a longer story where we could identify more with the characters.

I would definitely play another game by this author!

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