Will Not Let Me Go

by Stephen Granade profile

Slice of life
2017

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- Malasana, August 19, 2021

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A somber story about dementia, April 11, 2021
by Chin Kee Yong (Singapore)

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.


- blue/green, April 9, 2021

- Gerflooficorn, March 22, 2021

- autumnc, December 14, 2020

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great story, clever use of the mechanics, October 5, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 1-2 hours

This isn't really a game, but a short story (or medium-length story, I think it might have taken me 2 hours to play through) that is very engaging and makes clever use of the mechanics of Twine to make you feel what the main character is feeling (like when (Spoiler - click to show)you click on a word to choose your path and the word changes in the updated text). The ending was both great and heart-breaking.

ADDENDUM: The more I get into IF and also away from the idea that all IF should have "gameplay" elements the more I appreciate this piece. It is primarily a linear story, but one that makes use of the interactive aspects of IF very well. Will be on my Top 50 ballot for a long time.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An emotional and masterfully-told story about alzheimer's, September 30, 2020
by bradleyswissman (Virginia, US)

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?


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Will not forget, September 21, 2020
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

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.


- Wendymoon, September 15, 2020

- Marc-André Goyette, June 23, 2020

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Will Not Let Me Go: an unWinnable State review (this one gets very personal), May 13, 2020
by unWinnable State (unWinnableState.com)
Related reviews: Twine, unWinnable State, The List!

I was not looking forward to playing Stephen Granade’s Will Not Let Me Go. The description of the game is short: Dallas, Texas. 1996. Fred Strickland has Alzheimer’s.

My greatest fear is becoming afflicted with Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia.

Most of my life I have been prone to forgetting words, particularly nouns, and it seems to be getting worse as I get older. I am 41. I once called shampoo ‘hair detergent.’ I often have panic attacks when I can’t find a word, afraid that the word is gone forever. I do not have clear memories of much of my life. What I do remember is usually in the third person, things I know as facts but not as personal happenings. Most of my daughter’s early life just isn’t there.

None of these things indicate that I am more susceptible to dementia but they weigh heavy on me all the same.

In Will Not Let Me Go you take on the role of Fred Strickland, a man stricken Alzheimer’s, at various points in his later years dealing with his condition. These vignettes are presented out of sequence, one of the many tactics Stephen Granade uses to evoke a sense of discomfort in the reader. Passages are often halted mid sentence, sitting unfinished, forcing you to make the effort to continue the story, the same kind of effort Fred must make to stay focused and present. Sometimes words on the screen change as you make these efforts, and sometimes not, it can be hard to tell. I don’t know how many time I missed such a change before finally noticing. Realizing this, that I may have missed many of these changes, I had to put the story away for awhile. I was overwhelmed.

Will Not Let Me Go is a deeply sad work. This is quite often achieved through dramatic irony, scenes played through with you knowing what Fred has forgotten, and you can not help him. But at other times Granade drops the irony completely, putting you right there with Fred in real time as he experiences gapes in time, missed moments. Both approaches are equally effective in breaking the readers heart.

Despite this sadness, Will Not Let Me Go is a story about love, and about wanting the best for those we care about.

You can find the SPOILER-Y, and much more personal, portion of unWinnable State's review of Will Not Let Me Go here.


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- wohanley, January 28, 2020

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- hoopla, August 8, 2019

- Catalina, February 27, 2019

- JoQsh, January 29, 2019

- Mario Donick, November 23, 2018

- Molly (USA), September 30, 2018

- Laney Berry, September 28, 2018

- airylef, August 6, 2018

- dgtziea, May 9, 2018

- The Xenographer, April 19, 2018

- mapped, December 4, 2017


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