Player Comments on Private Game for Natalie

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, often...it 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
SPOILERS:

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
it was short and kinda chessey
-- gabby on 2/23/2020 1:11:28 PM with a score of 1
this sucks lol i wouldnt do this for all of the money in the world. complete waste of my free time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-- Doris Humplebunk on 1/28/2020 5:19:34 PM with a score of 0
All right, I see that I've been away from reading these stories for far too long. This is the second I've read in a row from Gower and I'm impressed. There's some great writing and imagination here.
-- madglee on 1/23/2020 1:44:32 PM with a score of 0
I think I read through 22 endings (I wanted to read through as many as I could, since this was one of the entries in the contest), but there still seemed to be many more pathways in this that I did not explore. Though any individual route will only take the average reader about 5 minutes to complete, there sure are a lot of them. I never once felt like the story was too linear, and pathways rarely looped back on each other.

Your writing is very poetic. The sentences always flow very smoothly, and this truly does read like a conversation between lovers. I especially liked how Natalie's relationship with the protagonist, and even her very existence, could be influenced by the player's choices. Seeing the characterization of the protagonist change across different routes was an interesting feature as well. Some of the endings were scary, some were sweet, and some were laugh-out-loud funny. You managed to capture a variety of different moods.

My only suggestion for improvement is that in some of the endings (SPOILERS:) Natalie doesn't exist, but this doesn't really fit the premise of the story. In one, for example, we find that the protagonist is simply drinking alone at a bar. How does the CYOA fit into the meta-narrative, here? Presumably he's not at a computer or browsing through the internet on his phone at the bar.

I think the writing in this was very good, overall. 7/8.
-- Reader82 on 1/13/2020 12:56:47 AM with a score of 0
I thought its accually meant for natalie bc it doesnt seem fun or fake noe real
-- w on 1/12/2020 1:53:15 PM with a score of 1
I just thought it would have more creativity and pictures.. more things to do like... what happens after they fall in love.. do they kiss? Do they touch each other? Do they lick and bite? Does the man rub natalies boobs so she can prepare to breast feed after sex? Do they have sex? Does she straddle him? Do they twerk together while weeping over pain? They girl need to suck on his nipples obviously and the sexy man needs to rub her boobs and suck on em. SUCK EM. Do they become a horny couple looking to just have sexy pleasure with each other?? HUMP HUMP Like what! Cmon now! Get more juicy sexy events in there u bad ass.??
Also they must be teens!!!!!!!
VIRGINITY ROCKS????????
-- SexyLesbi on 1/3/2020 2:53:25 PM with a score of 0
why game hate me. Natalie is mean
-- ummm on 12/26/2019 5:30:04 PM with a score of 1
I think that your mother could tell a better story about me last night than this game doe about Natalie.

Cheers ))))

Marvin l.y.
-- marvin - likestodo - yourmothe on 12/20/2019 2:44:47 PM with a score of 1
You know, Gower. These self inserts of yours are starting to get a bit weird. XD

Anyway, this was a very good storygame. It's structured with a lot of delayed branching and such, so it might be a bit tricky to find every page, but there are unclickable links in places to give you a clue when there's another path you are missing.

Some ends were funny, others were disturbing, and some were just plain creepy. Canon seems to change as Natalie makes the "right" or "wrong" choices. Even the nature of Gower and Natalie's relationship itself or whether or not Natalie is real at all is wildly different depending on the choices you make.
The narrator is manipulative and weird in most paths, even starting with how he treats Natalie like a child in the beginning when he tells her how to click links, although Natalie's apparent technological incompetency is amusing.

There were a lot of really funny parts. The Floyd path sticks out with how hilarious and creepy it was. The planking end especially was great with how weird it was.

There are a lot of other great parts too. Like this one:
"But, all right, I'm sad and alone. Let's say I live in a basement apartment in the more waterlogged part of Northern Florida, the foundation having been soaked through by horrible flooding dozens of times this month. The walls are so sodden I could put my finger through it, and roaches and termites, and house centipedes, and I don't know, boll weevils, are infesting the place."

Or possibly my favorite line in the whole game:
"my calculator can't do that calculation of percent."

There's overall really not a whole lot to complain about. I didn't like it as much as I liked Gower's other stories, but I'd still recommend this one.
Just be sure to play it multiple times.


-- Cricket on 12/9/2019 10:36:55 PM with a score of 2
This is not good, try again.
-- Humphrey on 12/3/2019 7:32:53 PM with a score of 0
This Trash Just Like The Cavaliers
-- LeBron James on 10/27/2019 2:10:17 AM with a score of 0
/discomfort/
-- 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
The thing that really clicked about this game, is that it really makes you feel like you're not supposed to be there. It's the kind of feeling of sheer anxiety you get when you're tiptoeing around the house past your bedtime as a child, or entering some place, a place where you know you can be caught and there are no excuses you can think of. Suffice to say, I enjoyed it.

I did find the transitions of tone to be a bit rocky at times, and although they are meant to be unsettling, they seemed a little bit off. You could always tell something was supposed to feel incorrect regardless, considering the game isn't supposed to be for you, and building up a little more to that would work wonders. I guess I was still a bit confused by the end, perhaps that's intentional, over what exactly Natalie is. Maybe it would've been a little clearer if there was less of a fixation on the whole "kids" part and more on the concept of Natalie herself? Regardless, good game, enjoyed it, rated it, and am presently reviewing it.
-- TrickleJest on 9/29/2019 6:25:20 AM with a score of 0
Its alright, could maybe use a little bit more story options and/or dialogue options.
-- Omnipixil on 9/27/2019 2:46:46 PM with a score of 0
Boom. Here's how to construct a relationship between character and reader. The choice to adopt a second person narrative only enhanced the disquiet of engaging with this narrator. But what was really entertaining, at least for myself, is the delicious use of dramatic irony to form a 'meta story'. Despite the limited number of choices we are presented, to the dismay of Natalie's lover(?) we're in complete control over the course of his fantasy. So while there is some acknowledgement of his predicament (he's even supposedly the one who made this storygame), the character is emotionally subordinate to the whims of the reader. This is an imaginative and ingenious use of the CYOA medium; enlightening as an example of character study. Thank you Gower!
-- Ozoni on 9/26/2019 10:29:10 PM with a score of 1
While I only played through this story the one time, I enjoyed it all the way through. It was short and sweet, just how I like some stories. I'm going to play it through again a few times to see what other endings I can get.
-- EmmaLin on 9/26/2019 6:04:32 PM with a score of 0
Another hilarious IF from the master of dialogue, Gower. Frenetic in narrative pacing.
-- VainCorsair on 9/26/2019 5:51:23 PM with a score of 1
This story is like a box of chocolates ... except with a box of chocolates you know what you'll get; chocolate. Here though, even the seemingly least important choices often lead down a different, completely unexpected path. So it could only be like a box of chocolates if some of those chocolates were sweet, some bitter, some salty, some poisoned, some with a taste quite like blood ... but all pretty damn good!

Comparisons are hard, OK?

I had a lot of fun playing this over and over again, finding all the endings I could. On the first playthrough, I followed the path the narrator wanted me to without even being aware of it. He seemed slightly odd, but a nice enough husband. Then I found the ending where he kills the children, the one where he kills me, the one where he's angry at me because I'm too ace for his liking ... and I realized that this might distract me for a while.

It did.

I enjoyed every single word of this story. Some of the paths were sweet, some funny, many downright terrifying; and the first two slowly became the last as I couldn't help but remember when reading about some happy ending that just a few choices away I'd be a dead Natalie.

I'm not sure which ending is the "real" one. Is Natalie (Valerie?) real? Is the narrator a monster? Is Natalie a monster? But regardless, this's one damn weird couple.

I only spotted a few small mistakes; Natalie being called Valerie once or twice, a few repeated words, and I think I found a typo somewhere. Nothing important, basically, and nothing most people will notice. What they will notice, however, is a bunch of amazing storytelling. I definitely noticed it too, so have an 8 from me. I hope this gets commended and featured soon!
-- Mayana on 9/26/2019 2:15:34 PM with a score of 1
Thanks for the point. Also cool story I guess, Format is interesting. It’s wack. I like it. You make wack stories. Gower is wack. Gower’s Stories are wack. I like them. He has gun. Help.
-- Lurkinator on 9/26/2019 1:20:02 PM with a score of 0
This gave me an interesting/unusual feeling, especially considering it's meant for another, it feels like looking into a diary and discovering what someone's life was like. Amazingly unusual in my opinion.
-- Loblaster on 9/26/2019 11:54:44 AM with a score of 1
This is really creepy. It reminds me of some dude I went to high school with. The way the narrator forces Natalie to think a certain way was what drew the first red flag. The lovey-dovey way he speaks about their supposed life, and the way he speaks of his own kids was worse.

It all clicked when I learned that Natalie isn't even real. She's just a delusion in his head--mind blown!

Gower's really good at making creepy stories. I'm interested to see how he proceeds from here.
-- 3iguy on 9/26/2019 8:17:45 AM with a score of 2
This actually took me a bit to get into. At first it was strange, like I was reading a personal journal that I was not supposed to read, but that was the authors intention (I assume) and it added to the intrigue of the story.
Since the game was written by Gower I have to mention that the grammar was very good, with a lot of interesting sentence structures. There were a few words here and there that were wrong (usually it was the case where a real word, just the wrong one, was typed). I apologize, but I am having trouble finding an example to call out. I think a few were in the "Quinn" branch. It did not affect the story or readability. I only noticed because in one case I thought the same word was typed twice by mistake, but one was supposed to be a different word. Something like "She she, 'X, Y, Z' to me" rather than "She said, 'X, Y, Z' to me."
As for the story it was very cute, with a lot of humor. I thought it was a very witty story! I am still trying to figure out if there really is a Natalie this was written for, and if the stories are somewhat true, or if it is complete fiction. Considering that I would believe either case was true, I think it is genius writing. The true love story appears to be in the simplest path, and the other paths are "fantasy" in most cases. It gave a ton of options and branches that were interesting and very different. There was also a realness to it that was spot on--it was relate-able.
The paths with the graphs about frequency of sexual activity had me laughing as well. I feel like as a married man this was also relate-able. One person (or both) usually feel like this in a relationship at one point or another. The exaggerated method of dealing with it through research and a story game was amazing.
There was a set of options that led to darker plot lines, like the reader killing someone or the author killing someone. In my opinion these paths were more silly/entertaining than dark though. They were as if the author knew his loves sense of humor and how "she" would respond. They did not have the same realistic feel (to me) as the other paths. That could also be the optimist in me not wanting to believe the characters are psychotic though.
I also should mention that you got a good sense of the characters: their interests, desires, frustrations, wins, sacrifices, etc. in a very unique way. For example, it never said, "the narrator was sexually frustrated," but on that paths that he was his narrative made it very implicit (via the extensive research into the correlation between temperature and lack of sex, as one example).
I laughed a lot while playing this game, mostly at the exaggerations. The relate-ability and realness was good on most paths. It was not my favorite story, I can't say why though. Perhaps it was not my style.
-- Shadowdrake27 on 9/26/2019 1:11:33 AM with a score of 2
This is an intriguing, experimental game. It doesn't follow the typical second person format, but is written as a pseudo-conversation between two people reflecting back on their relationship. You play as the woman/wife replying back to the recollections and questions of the man/husband. It's a fascinating, and sometimes disturbing, glimpse into the psychology of the two characters.

Choices are not inconsequential here. Depending on your responses, you might end up in a world where the man is a near psychopath manipulating his wife/ex-girlfriend, or a world where the man claims his wife is slowly descending into madness. The tale might be an almost painfully sweet account of two high school sweethearts facing a crossroads and deciding love is enough, or one where the two of you never really got together at all. Even the choices change in dynamic. Sometimes the options are sweet or teasing, but other times they sound like the response of a battered or controlled woman.

I've played through it a handful of times, but chances are there are a lot more endings yet to find. On the first play I didn't have time to finish, but I'd picked all idealistic answers of a high-school love-at-first sight romance, and so the man was always sweet. When I played again the next day, I tried the other extreme path of being controversial and defiant. It was here that the game really started to shine! The man would argue, contradict, lose his temper, manipulate, control - he was anything but the 'high school sweetheart' my first play-through depicted. By the time he claimed I was losing my mind and regularly going to the madhouse, I was pretty sure he was the one drugging me to melt my brain.

In later play-through, I tried to pick a more realistic balance and choose options to portray a typical love story; not 'love at first sight,' but still meeting and facing challenges. I avoided the extremes, and the stories accordingly became more realistic and bittersweet. I even managed one ending that seemed pretty near to happily ever after, though it had a melancholy undertone.

The game is definitely worth playing through a few times, or even more. It has great replay value since there are so many branches and paths, and each one has its own unique slant, circumstances, and dilemmas added to the story. It reminds me a bit of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind in that it takes a deeper dive into the dark side of the mind, and how in some relationships the people lie or hurt or manipulate each other, and how for many relationships the couple is stuck in a cycle of coming together and drifting apart.

It is also impressive that this game can get genuinely creepy in places, in an 'is this man going to kill me and cut up my body and dissolve it in acid if I contradict him one more time about how much I supposedly 'love' him' way.

-- Camelon on 9/25/2019 9:35:55 PM with a score of 1
As with Gower's last game, this comment contains spoilers. For the love of God, don't read this or any other comments if you haven't read this story.

Words can't really describe how I feel about this game. There's something about the way you write, and the format of this and your last game, that really resonates with me... Shit, is that weird? Oh well.

First off, this thing branches like a motherfucker, and every time I was sure I had explored every nook and cranny, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it branched even further. Rinse and repeat that feeling at least half a dozen times. I tip my hat to you, for making such a vastly branching story. I've gotten a good chunk of the endings but I'm stopping because I know that I'd get too sucked into this. Later, I'll have to come back and read again.

The endings all vary wildly in tone from happy times with Natalie to implied killings and everything in between. I particularly liked the ones where Natalie and the fictionalized Gower didn't end up together, personally; something about the combined bitterness and hopefulness of some of them resonated with me.

The writing was top-notch, as always. I noticed a few minor typos but nothing so bad it took me out of the story. Overall, it's definitely one of the finest additions to the site, and has set the bar for any future Love and Dating stories on the site. When it inevitably gets featured, I'll be there with a bottle of champagne to pop off in celebration.

8/8
-- Chris113022 on 9/25/2019 8:08:53 PM with a score of 2
Gower is a master at creating moods. This story is really a collection of them, without much of a plot to get in the way. They range from pleasant and loving to darker, full of anxiety, anger, and outright horror (especially when things get quiet...). Each of the endings I reached had a different tone, but there was a subtle discomfort in even the happiest. I was very impressed with how easily Gower conjured up these feelings- the bit about baked ziti was only a few sentences, but I can't remember reading anything quite as menacing for a long time (KUaF does something similar, but the dominant mood there was grief or longing). I doubt you can play through the game without getting at least one hint that the narrator is not exactly a thoughtful husband, and probably much more than one.

The structure was well-suited for this kind of psychological study. Single sentences from Natalie prompt long, revealing digressions from the narrator. After a few choices, we're pretty confident of how he will react if we contradict his account, and we have a good sense of his likes and dislikes. Still, mood trumps character here- just as we don't really need to know every last thing that happened in this relationship, we don't need to know much beyond the basics about the narrator as a person. All Gower provides are the essentials, enough to his words about his undying, perfect love for Natalie sound convincing (or, at least, convincing up to a point).
-- pugpup1 on 9/25/2019 7:19:03 PM with a score of 1
This is honestly a great read. The fact that apparently the author wrote all of it in three days just furthers my amazement at both his productivity and the quality of the content he has been putting out. Then again, we are talking about The Gower, so that's a given. This story is written in a very creative way, by putting the player in the shoes of Natalie, whose husband has written her a storygame in commemoration of their anniversary. It's all very sweet. Or is it?

The way the story is set up, is by having the narrator, AKA the husband, reacting to the choices picked by the player, AKA Natalie. Going along with the "typical" college romance path will in turn garner a positive reaction from the narrator, pleased at his wife's memory of this special moment. Trying to pick different paths, however, will usually result in the narrator's confusion, annoyance, and straight-up infuriation. The narrator's comments are usually hilarious, and all the writing displays that witty, funny and charming style that just makes it all the more enjoyable to read.

Some choices lead to seriously funny bits where we can see the narrator really losing his cool, bringing out another side to this marriage than the sweet love story we're presented with at first. The fact that Gower can make the "mood" of the narrator affect the style of the writing is worthy of praise.

All in all, this is an outstanding story that is sweet, hilarious and sad all rolled up into one. Everyone here would do themselves a favor by reading it. 8/8.
-- DarkSpawn on 9/25/2019 5:57:15 PM with a score of 0
This...this was amazing.

Found two endings so far, and probably there are more.

I think what I liked the most was the way the narrative could be twisted and changed, although I am sure it all depends.

We have a guy, sitting at a table...alone. Making up false versions of events. Still sitting in anger and denial.

Natalie totally sat with the other dudes, I imagine any perceived flirtations were in the head of the narrator.

Perhaps, the reader has woken up to find Gower laying in bed with them, in a chair next to it, in his...basement perhaps?

We may never really know, except for what he tells us.

Yes, we were lovers, it was rocky at first, but then we made out at the football game...okay he is satisfied and rambling again...time to break the ropes.

This, like your previous game, has been an excellent experiment in writing.

You my friend, are a master of manipulating your readers minds. While I won't be drinking the kool aid, I think this deserves an 8/8

-- corgi213 on 9/25/2019 5:18:21 PM with a score of 2
Natalie, please, don't be like that. It's one thing that I messed up and published the game, but it's another thing to say those lies about me in the comments.

We told me once that you loved me, and that you're scared of everything. That you are scared of what you saw, of what you did, of who you are, and that most of all, you were scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of your whole life the way you feel when you're with me. Now, I don't what you're going to say, that you *said* those things in character during our freshman year performance of Dirty Dancing, where you were playing Baby, and I was doing sound and lighting, but you looked kind of up towards me when you said it. I knew you meant it to me.

It's just harsh to say that stuff so openly in the comments. People are going to see it and judge me, and I've tried hard to cultivate an aura of a nice guy. There's no such thing as getting too close to someone when you love them, and to me, that includes restraining orders.

And I respect your relationship with Quinn, honestly, I do. It's like the two women I love the most together, and you're both so happy, and when you love people all you want is for them to be happy. I just want to make sure you both are is all. Nobody knows how you like to be touched better than me, certainly not Quinn, granted it's hard to tell the specifics from a distance, especially after Quinn watched that thing about how you're supposed to put a little piece of tape over your webcam. But that's all just minor matters.

The important thing, Natalie, is 20 years. Twenty years! You can't throw that away. We used to sit around and relax in the dorm and watch old reruns of Kelly Unicornstrider and Friends, and laugh and eat popcorn together. We didn't let what other people said affect us. The world melted away, and only we existed.

So please, please take this crazy idea that I'm harassing you off the forum, unblock me, respond to me. I'm right here. And we'll *be* here, together in this comment list, forever, after we're dead, after this world is dead, and all that's left is some old server humming, our names will be near each other, and the electrons that represent me will love the electrons that represent you, and my electrons will cross into your atoms and I will be part of you again, although some weird extra-electron molecule that will probably fry the server, but still, my Natalie, even so.
-- Gower on 9/25/2019 4:43:20 PM with a score of 0
I really loved the way this story was written. The way it was told - as if it were two people talking - was a little confusing at some points, but I got used to it by the end. Great story Gower! I’m really looking forward to whatever you put out next.
-- C6H8O6 on 9/25/2019 2:14:49 PM with a score of 2
I don't know what to say. Gower's superb writing mind-raped me into a thoughtless blob swirling in base emotion. It's a bit alarming how easily he can draw me into a story. I gave it an 8/8.
-- ninjapitka on 9/25/2019 1:19:28 PM with a score of 2
Gower, how many times do I have to tell you? I am NOT your fucking girlfriend! I tried being nice to you in college because I felt sorry for you and spent the rest of my life regretting it. All you did was tell me that everything I liked was stupid and try to get me to play your nerdy little computer games. I hate computer games, I’m not interested in those creepy true-crime documentaries, and I don’t want to join your little Magic the Gathering club!

Besides, we haven’t even been friends in like 20 years! I blocked you on everything after you started telling everyone that we were dating, even though you knew I was going out with Quinn. Then you just turned into a full blown crazy stalker! You know, me and my friends used to get together and laugh at all that shitty poetry you wrote me, and then burn them after we were done. I’m not your soul-mate Gower. I don’t even like you! I thought I made that VERY clear at Darren’s party after the little incident with the toenail in the birthday cake.

And what the hell is this shit about you love me when I’m asleep and you love watching me eat breakfast? You know the terms of the restraining order! You’re not allowed within fifty feet of me or my house. I’m going to be showing this game to the cops, so expect a visit from them soon.

Now, for the love of God, will you please leave me alone? I’m happy. I’m married. I have three beautiful kids and I don’t want anything to do with you. Never contact me again.
-- Natalie on 9/25/2019 9:55:02 AM with a score of 2
This is a novel story in that it flips the usual perspective on its head. Instead of being a character within the world of the story, with a narrator to explain what you're doing, this story is essentially a conversation between two lovers on their anniversary. The text is what the husband is saying; the choices are the wife's responses.

If I had to describe the branching format, I'd say it was an Alaskan river, full of intertwining braids that link back to one another, especially early in the conversation. The story's stats tell me there are upwards of 25,000 words here, and despite reading several story paths I doubt I covered more than a fraction of that; I could probably revisit this story, make a few subtle changes to my responses, and have a completely different outcome.

I read a "flirtatious tease" path, in which the wife insists on deviating from the true story of how they first met, and a "let's forget the kids ever existed" path. The first was fun, the latter lacked an element of guilt, because although I'm sure the parents of teenaged children might fantasize about having some alone time, willfully imagining their progeny out of existence would get old quickly, I think.

Most of the endings were positive, although one hinted at a break-up. None explained why the wife is named Valerie in the title but Natalie in the game.

There was also one broken link. Clicking on "We realized that we needed nothing but us. Just us" brought me back to the top of the page without advancing the story.

Overall, this is a very good story -- not really a story, not really a game, but an insightful study in character building, scene setting, and dialog in a non-traditional style.
-- Bill_Ingersoll on 9/24/2019 7:33:32 PM with a score of 0
A mastery in player manipulation and control both flow and stage. And the fact that, if you go against the narrator the nature of the fantasy and illusion of a relationship. great deep story, with a fine irony.
-- poison_mara on 9/24/2019 6:55:53 PM with a score of 1
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