Stanley: The Character That Defines Michael Merlino

jan-6-music-2

We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.


introduction

Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year-long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!

We’re just going to come right out and say it! Michael Merlino has done something truly special for this collaboration. This creative blogger put together a choose-your-own-adventure story inspired by The Stanley Parable. We had a blast programming it, though he did test the limits of what WordPress can do. Please send us a message on Twitter if you find a bug.

After you’re done, revisit his rumination on BioShock from The Games That Define Us. Also, definitely check out his new self-titled site project!

Will you enjoy this piece?

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Good.

You’ll need to click an option after each section to progress. We suppose you could read it all, but it will not make much sense.

 


1p-start

This is the story of a man named Michael.

Michael worked for a company in a big building where he was Employee #291294.

Employee #291294’s job was simple: he sat at his desk on the 5th floor, called up random people and tried to sell them random products that nobody wanted because nobody needed them.

Calls came to him through a dialer on his desk, telling him what to say and when to say it.

This is what Employee #291294 did every day of every month of every year, and although others might have considered it soul rending,

Michael hated every moment the calls came in, as though he had been made exactly to never do this job.

And Michael was unhappy.

And then one day, something very peculiar happened.

Something that would forever change Michael; something he would never quite forget.

Michael had a call from his estate agent. It was about the apartment he and his girlfriend wanted to rent. Their offer had been accepted. Michael was filled with emotions. But they were not all positive.

On the one hand, he and his girlfriend would finally have a home to call their own. But what would this mean for the future? Would he be stuck in a nightmare job for the rest of his life?

There certainly weren’t many other jobs around that paid as well. These were questions that continued to fill his little brain.

The next day he walked into work as usual. After the short elevator ride to his floor, Michael was greeted with a hallway. At the end of the hallway came a set of two open doors.

He chose the…

LEFT DOOR

RIGHT DOOR


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT DOOR

Michael decided to go with the sensible choice. He may not love his job. But it’s honest work… well, it’s work and it pays the bills.

And so he gritted his teeth and returned to his desk. He looked at the clock as it ticked 8:59. Another day of torture was about to begin.

But just as Michael made himself available on the phone dialer, a thought occurred to him.

The only thing holding him back in this job was himself. Yes, he had a script, but why should that stop him from excelling in selling that worthless product that no one wanted to buy.

With newfound confidence, Michael was ready for his first call and…

THREW AWAY THE HORRIBLE SCRIPT KEPT THE HORRIBLE SCRIPT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEPT THE HORRIBLE SCRIPT

But alas! Michael ignored his superior intuition and decided to keep the script. Perhaps rising to the challenge was too much of a challenge in itself. Perhaps this is Michael’s destiny.

As Michael sat there taking abuse from the other end of the line, he thought to himself:

“Maybe I should just become a Mormon! The musical was pretty good after all.”

RETURN TO START


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THREW AWAY THE HORRIBLE SCRIPT

Unshackled from the reigns of that vile piece of paper, Michael proudly picked up the phone. He would not allow fear of rejection and retribution stop him. He was on a path upwards.

Sale after sale after sales… ah he could imagine it now. Employee of the month! And perhaps some day he could dream even bigger.

Instead of “Assistant Sales Associate” he could become… “Junior sales associate”.

All it would take is a short 30 years of non stop work.

RETURN TO START


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIGHT DOOR

This was not the way to Michael’s desk and he knew it.

The path he chose would lead directly to his line manager. The door was unfortunately locked via a door code. And unless Michael somehow knew that the code was 0451, he would never be able to enter.

Enter 0451

Incredibly, through a combination of random button pushing and pure dumb luck, he was in!

With a sense of ever fleeting confidence, Michael raised his voice and asked to leave the company at once.

But the feeling of dread at leaving the security of his job soon subsided. He was free.

He could do whatever he wanted and what he wanted was to make it in the big city. All he had to do was take a left towards the main street and arrive at the train station.

So Michael went…

LEFT TO STATION RIGHT TO UNIVERSITY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIGHT TO UNIVERSITY

Because Michael already had a masters degree in finance, he figured it couldn’t hurt to take academia all the way. And why not. He enjoyed learning and the idea of continuing down this path didn’t seem so bad.

He walked straight into the admissions centre and filled out an application. He decided to apply for a…

PhD IN FINANCE BA IN BUG CATCHING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BA IN BUG CATCHING

Um excuse me?! What are you doing. Why would Michael study bug catching?

It’s not even a real course!!! Are you even taking this seriously at all! This is Michael’s story… not yours!

Michael does finance.

It’s like you’re trying to make a mockery of the story.

Fine. Bug catching. You win.

Michael’s life is ruined and his friends and girlfriend leave him. But at least he has his bugs…

No more pathways for you.

RETURN TO START

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PhD IN FINANCE

Ah, finally a place where Michael belongs. Unravelling the mysteries of money and challenging his preconceptions of the modern financial system.

This is what he was meant to do. And he was happy. Mostly.

But deep down, there was always a question of what else could he do. Does he really belong in the academic world forever?

These are questions he’d probably never know the answer to.. But at least he can avoid getting a real job.

RETURN TO START


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT TO STATION

Michael made sure to spend the train journey thinking about what was to come. An exciting future in the big city.

It was like being freed from a prison, a prison built of communal desks and cold calling.

But amongst all the excitement, the question of “what next” continued to pop up.

Michael was a man of big dreams and always had his heart set on establishing himself as an entrepreneur. Master of his own destiny, leading a life that lived and died by his own works.

The thought was invigorating. He could barely contain his excitement.

Michael already had a couple friends who were working the startup life with a growing jewelry business. They would be his first port of call.

So he decided to…

CALL HIS FRIENDS APPLY FOR CORPORATE JOB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPLY FOR CORPORATE JOB

But perhaps Michael wasn’t as sure of himself as he initially thought. Entrepreneurship is a hard road filled with fear and uncertainty. Surely his fragile little heart would not be able to bare such stress.

So Michael decided to go with the easier, more laid back option: Corporate banking.

And after a solid 6 months of blindly applying for any banking job he could find, it finally happened… an acceptance letter.

So, in his best suit, Michael prepared for his first day at Banking Co. and the wonderful career that would surely follow.

Armed with a desk and personal computer, Michael was given the prestigious title of employee #291294. He knew there would be plenty of hard work ahead of him and relished the task.

He was on a path upwards.

Report after report after report… ah he could imagine it now. Employee of the month! And perhaps some day he could dream even bigger.

Instead of “Assistant Banking Associate” he could become… “Junior Banking associate”.

All it would take is a short 30 years of non stop work.

RETURN TO START

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CALL HIS FRIENDS

Michael knew that through a combined skill set of different business disciplines, he and his friends would be able to build a premier marketing agency.

Just as it was in his dreams, he was finally taking the steps towards full blown entrepreneurship.

The work was difficult and the hours were long, but Michael was aware that it would all be worthwhile.

The problem that Michael soon recognised was a distinct lack of pure marketing experience. Of course he did have a Masters Degree in finance but that wasn’t quite the same as a detailed understanding of SEO, Display Ads and Content Marketing.

He would need to broaden his knowledge.

He had the perfect idea:

APPLY FOR INTERN MARKETING ROLE TAKE AN ONLINE COURSE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKE AN ONLINE COURSE

But why go through all the effort of taking another job when he could get the same value from a simple online course?

So Michael quickly changed tack and decided to enroll in an online digital marketing course which promised to teach him everything… and all for the low price of $499.99! What a bargain.

It soon became apparent, however, that the course was not all it was cracked up to be. It was garbage. And most of it could have been found for free with a quick YouTube search.

Michael was so enraged that he decided to do it all himself. He would build his own online course. He did have his own blog afterall. And while his blog may not have been very successful yet, when he cast his mind to the charlatans who had sold him the marketing course, he figured they couldn’t have been very successful either

So after about 29 minutes of writing, Michael created one of the most popular online marketing courses known to man, generating millions in revenue each and every month.

RETURN TO START


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPLY FOR INTERN MARKETING ROLE

At first, no one seemed interested in reading Michael’s resume. Despite near hundreds of applications, he received no feedback at all.

So Michael had another strategy, he would rely on his blogging experience and craft a cover letter in the form of a blog post.

Soon he got not only an interview but a full offer from an Advertising Tech startup. This was a role that allowed him to blossom, both professionally and creatively.

He was tasked with creating content and was even promoted to developing full strategies for the company.

As Michael sat at his desk, he thought about his life so far. There was no singular narrative. No overarching story that determined his fate. His life had been driven by choices great and small. And sometimes by events totally out of his control.

How much say did he really have in all the events that had and would transpire? Where would his life take him next? What was that distinctly british voice in his head that spoke about him in the third person?

These were questions that he would never truly know the answer to… but that’s ok.

And as he looked up from his desk something very peculiar happened.

Something that would forever change Michael;

something he would never quite forget.

A set of doors that he had never seen before; and yet, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something deeply memorable about them.

Two doors. Infinite possibilities.

Michael chose the door on the left.

RETURN TO START


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