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A somber story about dementia, April 11, 2021
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.