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About the Story
Dallas, Texas. 1996. Fred Strickland has Alzheimer's.
Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Winner - Fred Strickland, Best Individual PC - 2017 XYZZY Awards
4th Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Award - 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2017)
Rock Paper Shotgun
Granade is an old hand at IF — he had already been writing for some years before I turned up on the interactive fiction scene in the late 90s — and much of his work touches on childhood, family, community, and different characters’ perspective on one another. Common Ground (1999) shows the same scenes from the perspective of several different family members, and Child’s Play (2006) is a parser puzzle game that is also a jokey riff on what it’s like to raise toddlers. Will Not Let Me Go carries forward some of the same themes — how do people understand each other, how do they adapt to each other in families and communities — but it’s the work of a more mature and experienced storyteller.
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I have played a number of parser-based games by this author, but this is the first of his works in Twine that I have come across. If this is his first twine work, I would say that he hit the ground running, as the medium is well suited to this story.
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My opinion of this piece changed through the playing. Initially, I felt it was too linear. What does it say about Twine that even a game designer with as much experience as Granade can make the player feel as if they're just turning the pages of a book? But the story-telling is powerful enough that I stuck with it and by the mid-point I began to appreciate why Granade had chosen this medium.
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L'avventura è l'avventura
The way Stephen Granade used Twine is great: the words sometimes change because Fred struggles to remember, other words are cut … An extraordinary journey into memory, a wonderful work. If we really have to find a con, maybe some passages are too long, but Will Not Let Me Go is just short of a masterpiece.
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Its mix of narrative voice and mechanics that support its story is exactly what I love in narrative design. From the opening indication that the story will remember your place, which fades out until only “remember” lingers, it’s a thoughtful and sometimes painful exploration of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 7
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Growing old is one of my greatest fears. As a young person, it seems nightmarish to me that I may one day be reduced to a shadow, slowly losing control of my faculties and my agency, waiting for the story of my life to end.
This is a text game, but it's not the kind of game you play for fun. Like That Dragon, Cancer, its purpose is to be a certain kind of experience, which takes you on a particular emotional journey. You play Fred Strickland in a series of slice-of-life vignettes, and in doing so, come to understand his joys and his sorrows as well as his ultimate tragic fate.
The most significant thing about this story is its emotional weight. As a reader, I tend to avoid stories set in mundane settings -- I think slice-of-life Americana is extremely difficult to write, because it's such a well-trodden, vanilla setting. In the absence of a fascinating setting or high-stakes drama, it takes a very skilled author to make the reader emotionally invested in the main character. It is therefore notable that Will Not Let Me Go approached its subject matter with such grace that it made me tear up.
Will Not Let Me Go's Twine interface is excellent as well, simple but well-considered with nothing left to chance. The background changes subtly to reflect the main character's state of mind in each vignette, and the hypertext form maps very well to the way that the main character's stream of consciousness jumps between thoughts. This is used to great effect in one emotional scene near the end, when the narration breaks down into fragments held together by hyperlinked threads.
(There's a nod to accessibility as well, with a small button in the lower right letting users switch to a higher-contrast theme.)
On the whole I would call this a memorable work of literature -- for it is literature in the most rarified sense of the word. It uses the medium of interactive fiction to tell a poignant and gripping story about the horror of dementia. It's not the kind of story I would normally go in for, but there's a time and place for these kinds of stories, and in this aspect Will Not Let Me Go is a memorable and beautifully crafted masterpiece.
Some interactive fiction works open up new, fantastic worlds filled with indescribable creatures and clever puzzles. Will Not Let Me Go does not do this. In this relatively short Twine story, you play, or rather, experience life, as an elderly man named Frank who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and incurable progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the memory. The setting and and pacing of this story are both mundane - unhurried snapshots of a life at home, in the office, and at a diner with lifelong friends - but the subject matter is more devastating than death. You forget names, faces, places, and people, and experience the frustrating consequences of your forgetfulness. The gradual loss of autonomy is nearly palpable. The comparative lack of choice that is typical to the Twine platform makes for an even more emotionally fraught experience. As the player, you have little choice other than to control your emotions - will you rage, or go quietly, as you slip further and further into that good night?
One of the more emotional interactive fiction pieces I've played. The intro hits hard and the rest attempts to show us various snapshots of Fred's battle with Alzheimer's. The characters are drawn quite well; between my grandmother and my job I've been around many family systems going through the same thing and it all felt very real to me. Granade also does some interesting things with Twine that emphasize Fred's confusion.
I can't help but wonder if this could have been more powerful as a parser game. Take the scene where Fred (Spoiler - click to show)gets his wife some Tylenol. If I had more input than clicking hyperlinks I think an already heartbreaking scene would have ruined me. It would have forced me to take a more active role in fighting the unwinnable fight. As played it feels more like turning pages of a story.
The story jumps around quite a bit. For me it was a bit jarring and I think I would have enjoyed something more linear. But now I'm picking nits. Huge props to Granade for tackling this with earnestness and grace.
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