Private Game for Natalie

a Love & Dating by Gower

Commended by mizal on 9/27/2019 10:04:01 PM

Player Rating6.53/8

"#117 overall, #3 for 2019"
based on 65 ratings since 10/07/2019
played 208 times (finished 22)

Story Difficulty2/8

"walk in the park"

Play Length6/8

"It'll be a while, better grab a Snickers®"

Maturity Level7/8

"anything goes"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 18. If this were a movie, it would probably be R.

I think putting this on "publish" makes it so only we can see this. It's just for us, sweetie. I made it to celebrate our anniversary and remember some special intimate moments together over the years in an interesting way as a present for you.

I hope you love it, Natalie, as much as I love you!

(Of course if there's any admin looking at this, or if I messed up, don't read this, because it's got private things in it.)

Player Comments

There's a sweet, simple little love story of nostalgic reminiscences to be had here...if you choose wisely, and don't stray from the expected path.

Now if you don't play along, and start to contradict the narrator, if for some perverse reason you (as Natalie) insist on remembering things *incorrectly*, things get a little thorny, fast. If you're coming to this or to Gower's previous game after having only followed along with the superb Tally Ho LP, I imagine it can be a little surreal. If there's one thing I'm learning about his CYS storygames anyway, it's that you can expect him to do some neat tricks with the POV and structure of these, and you can expect to be unsettled.

The previous game presented itself as a quiz and (for most of it) was Gower as the author speaking to you, the player. This time the 'you' is Natalie, playing the game that was written for her by the narrator and sometimes speaking directly through the choices. (And this is the source of the only flaw I found in the game. It was supposed to have been written in advance for her to play through, and that's confirmed in most of the endings, but it didn't always seem that way as it was actually happening...and of course certain choices changed the actual 'reality' of the relationship and some didn't. Although, this being a CYOA, I'd be at a loss for coming up with other ways to handle it.)

Overthinking the structure aside, the game and the different takes on the characters' relationship is just fascinating to explore. Sometimes it hits that fond, nostalgic tone of a 20 year anniversary just right, sometimes it's twisted and hysterically funny, and sometimes...well, swerves on a hard left and turns dark af.

(Weirdly, the 'baked ziti' conversation was the most uncomfortable one for me, perhaps because it's a much more familiar and realistic example of a terrible relationship than some of the uh, other options.)

The automatic dishwasher scene meanwhile is bizarre and hilarious and not at all what you'd expect to encounter in a story like this, but it was a great moment for a change of pace after pawing through so many other twisted memories, 'distortions', and what have you.

This is undoubtedly one of the best written stories we have in the L&D category, but anyone looking for a safe, traditional romance is going to be in for a shock, and I'm looking forward to reactions.

Btw, the Quinn and Floyd choices are very much worth unlocking, and not difficult. Just go back and choose a bit differently near the beginning. (Scrolling through the comments for the exchange between 'Natalie' and Gower is also recommended after reading this a few times, it's good enough to belong in the story itself and definitely should be part of the experience...)

This was a great read, the kind of thing you have to get through all in one sitting once you realize what's going on with the responses and endings. Although, because the nature of the existing relationship can change so much depending on what you pick, I never got that clear, unified picture of it all the way I did in the OTHER story. Gower may or may not have been married to Natalie for 20 years, but it's obvious his true first love will always be Kelly. Nothing can match the intensity of the spark they had.
-- mizal on 10/1/2019 1:03:15 PM with a score of 0

Gower, you're really, really clever. I read this in a well-lit bedroom, with closet doors closed and no space under my bed for monsters to hide; yet I still had shivers crawling up my spine like centipedes. You may have exploited a new "phobia" I wasn't aware I had. This takes the eerie style of the Unicornstrider quiz, and raises the stakes by making you the direct object of the narrator's fixation.

I'm not sure exactly how you wrote this in three days to be perfectly honest with you. This game would NOT have worked, had the level of detail and metaphor in any of the branches been lacking, because the style of the writing was made to perfectly mimic the narrator's mindset. The creepiest part of this game, and maybe I'm alone in saying this, are not the jarring (in a good way) endings where the narrator basically admits to be responsible for murder in pursuit of a reaction from Natalie. Instead, it's the uncanny and gross way he remembers encounters with you, including ones that hadn't actually happened. If I had to hear about how "slender, small, and kittenesque" I was one more time, I might've pulled an 'Earl' to end my suffering.

There's a lot of examples of really strong writing in this, but specifically I like the comparison of a brain affected by Alzheimer's to bread dissolving in a soup bowl. Often times metaphors are either too silly or lighthearted or too cliche in horror stories, and it's tough to make them work. This one works brilliantly though, I love it.

And of course, in Gower-like fashion, each choice feels like a step in a Rube Goldberg machine, where the loser is invariably me. Playing out someone else's fantasies is terrible, and terribly fun. And as I sit in the aforementioned room with the lights on and the distinct lack of monsters in sight, I clicked the "I swear, I don't know. I don't know!" option. As I did, my laptop went from 21% to 20%, triggering an automatic screen dim. I've not jumped that much in that long and I'm thankful for it. I mentioned it's a step up from Kelly Unicornstrider before, so fittingly this deserves an 8/8. Well fucking done.
-- TheChef on 9/26/2019 5:29:47 PM with a score of 0
SPOILER ALERT: Don't read this if you don't already know what happens, you pillock.

I'm sitting here a little bit dumbfounded by what's been laid out before me. Trying to imagine the feelings I might have if I didn't know Gower, or this website. I have to admit, it would be really strange. I'm trying to get into the head of someone, who, upon seeing this 90s-ass website for the first time, maybe feeling like they're sort of in the middle of nowhere on the internet, which is always a fun but apprehensive feeling, scrolling down to the New Storygames section for the first time to see what's up... And finding this.

I have to say, this might be, at first, one of the more unsettling things I've read on the site. Sure, the actual horror genre is all well and good, and there are some good examples on this site, but nothing here has made me feel as *uncomfortable* as this story. And I think that's clear from the very beginning. Everything written here is clearly written for somebody else- And whether you assume the familiarity is scary and uncomfortable, or whether you feel like you're an unwelcome voyeur spying on two people who are closer than you realized, there's a sense of dread from the very first page. You're not supposed to be here, and maybe Natalie isn't either.

Maybe it's just that I have experience reading the writings of internet creeps who have entire relationships sheerly in their heads, but the writing felt so indicative of it that I felt compelled for "Natalie" to tell a side of the story that didn't match up with his. And after a few depressing endings, it started to become a game less about learning about these two people, and more a game of trying to find out what's real and what isn't. And, just like a real conversation with an infatuated individual, that answer is never really clear. You won't know if what they tell you about the subject of their obsession is real or not if they're your only source of information on the relationship.

Of course, the paths are not consistent between each other. They don't have to be! But sometimes Gower will contradict Natalie even within the path she's currently on. And it leads to conclusions of all sorts. From the heartwarming, to the perverse, to the malicious, to the downright lonely. And you can never really 'win'. The more things go in the favor of romance, the more uncomfortable the *reader* is for their voyeurism. The more things go into the negative or bizarre, the more sympathy the reader will have for Natalie, and the more unreliable the "good" paths seem.

All in all, it feels a bit like an experience designed purely to put the reader just that little bit on edge, whether it's through subtle details or more blatant twists. Or maybe I'm just paranoid after so much past experience with internet creeps, and how real this might feel to the uninitiated on their very first playthrough. Either way, I, personally, found this to be a delightful exploration of all sorts of relationships, and perhaps a bit of a fun romp through the feeling of seeing things I'm not supposed to.

I also have to add how refreshing it is to have an interactive meta-narrator that isn't just some twelvie that thinks they're Lemony Snickett. You have no idea how satisfying it is to see that after so many of the 'troll' games we used to have.
-- ISentinelPenguinI on 9/26/2019 2:05:22 AM with a score of 2
-- Chanbot on 10/16/2019 4:44:47 PM with a score of 1
After reading this a few more times and trying out different paths, I must say this short game was very enjoyable. The endings (and the story to get there) are very different from each other, and as such, some leave you with a slight bittersweet taste in your mouth, while others just leave you with a content smile.

There were a few misspellings here and there, but nothing too bad that would throw you off.

Overall, I would recommend this game to anyway that has a few minutes to spare.
-- Meira on 10/7/2019 6:01:37 AM with a score of 0
This, this is a story, right? It reads so personal, invasive even. So much to the point in which it can be so very sweetly unnerving, but not to a point in which I wanted to turn away from what I was reading. It was certainly the opposite, it is the opposite in fact. You have created something that is quite a sight to behold. I do mean that positively since what I've read was written well.

I want to know just how farther this story can go, and I think this little thing promotes that, doesn't it?

Gower, you're something else. I adored what I read, you brilliant schemer, you.
-- TharaApples on 10/5/2019 7:44:19 PM with a score of 1
The games i've been playing of yours lately feel quite a bit like getting into a seemingless harmless conversation at the bustop before realizing 5 minutes in you've been roped into hell. You're really good at that creeping bitterness thing, ya know? I don't know what else to say. Just that I would like to see you do more. Thank you for being on this site.
-- puddlebunni on 10/5/2019 6:59:02 PM with a score of 1
Huh. So she's turned on by planking. That was kind of funny, but I feel like I might have missed a lot of the story with this ending. Maybe I'll try again.

I enjoyed a couple moments of humor, and it was interesting having a story narrated in the first person. But as I said, I think I might have made the "wrong" choices, because I didn't really get much beyond the girl "cheated" on you by having a guy work out over her.

Anyway, I only noticed one potential writing problem (maybe): the context appeared to imply that the author was going to start working out, but the text was this (which confused me somewhat):

"But I know you have a thing with arms and shoulders. You told me that right away, and started working. I did Cuban presses, military presses, Arnold presses, all the presses. Everything that I could press, I pressed."

What does "and started working" mean here? Did she start working at her job? Was it supposed to be "and I started working out?" I'm not sure.

Overall, it seems there are a lot of branches for this story, but maybe some of them need some watering. Or maybe this is one of those storygames that require four or five readings.

It certainly was not bad at all, but I think I'd have to go back and play through again to find the pot of gold.
-- Fluxion on 10/3/2019 7:55:50 PM with a score of 1
It's so romantic
I loved the idea of creating a storie for Natalie
I nearly cried because it was beautiful
-- WillyWinky on 10/3/2019 2:38:51 AM with a score of 0
Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seriously reviewed anything of this standard. This story is so many things, just as the best interactive fiction should be.

The story begins twee and reminiscent of a lot, A LOT, of love and dating on this website. I don’t browse love and dating but christ... the number of ‘love’ stories with a front page and a ‘in the cafeteria’ option is just painful. Seriously, what is it about the fucking cafeteria? Do you Americans spray pheromones in those things!?

Which segues onto my main point: this isn’t a love story. This is an eclectic range of consequences that could arise from a love story, or a fantasy of a love story. The love story isn’t particularly moving if you play the choices that the writer of the story would expect their spouse to pick. But some of the endings outside of that single path vary from horrifying to petty in a compact, dynamic way.

What struck me on playing through a few times was the deliberating, nuanced voice of the protagonist along the expected path. The writer quotes his younger self speaking with articulation, smooth and uninterrupted. Then, when you pick options beyond what the writer expects of his spouse, the narrative shifts to a more broken staccato, which is really how a person would speak when the response isn’t known beforehand. I think that’s great; I really love reading dialogue written in, and I can’t stress this enough, the way people actually speak.

But then with this is a complete absurdity: the writer presents these outrageous options and responds to them outraged nonetheless. Moreover, some options are presented with an awareness of doing so, yet others the narrator speaks as though reacting in real time to the conversation happening, as opposed to the actual preemptive written form. I loved this, and generally love any fresh and creative way to utilise interactive fiction.

I saw one spelling mistake, something about a corn chowder. That’s okay though, I don’t even know what chowder is.

Very well thought out story in total, I especially liked how visceral the ending can be depending on which choice you pick right before the expected love ending is reached. You are deservedly featured, Gower.
-- AzBaz on 10/1/2019 9:46:31 AM with a score of 1
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