Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Olley White - Game On

What happens when all your expectations are blown out of the water?
Max is finally meeting his his on-line gaming friend. 5t3ff is everything Max wanted in a girl, funny, kind and a good gamer. He's never felt such a connection with anyone and he's hoping that the friendship they have might move to something more. When 5t3ff turns out to be Stefan and not Stephanie, Max has to reassess his feelings. Or does he? Can love just be love, regardless of gender? And can the two boys ignore the labels long enough to find out?
A funny, quirky, thoroughly British story about two friends falling in love.

Comment: Someone recommended this short story to me once and shamefully, only now I got to it, but any reader knows it can be difficult to read everything at a realistic pace...

In this story we meet Max and Stefan, they are gaming fans and have spent many hours playing the same game and becoming friends there. They decide to meet in person and this is risky, after all the real person might not be as amazing in real life, but they set up a meeting at the zoo anyway. They are both surprised to find out they are both guys and while this might feel like a disappointment for Max, he believes it's better to have a good friend. Stefan also thought Max was a girl but he is quite happy, for he is gay and he likes Max from the start. Is there any chance for them, though, since Max isn't gay? Or it's true feelings count more than gender?

Max and Stefan have been buddies in their online game personas, chatting often in the chat room of the game and being solid friends there too.The two actually have, or feel they have, stronger feelings besides friendship towards the other but there is just one catch, they both think the other one is a girl. I think this scenario isn't that hard to imagine and I was quite curious to see how the author would develop the relationship between the two friends.

As usually happens, though, I felt the story lacked a little the strength of being a novel, with more time and pages for things to develop in a better pace. I think the author did a good job trying to slow pace things and to let us believe the two guys were developing stronger feelings than friendship - the fact hey were already friends and knew things about one another helped - but to me, the actual falling in love situation still felt rushed.

Stefan is laid back guy who works with animals and of course this makes us feel he is even more relatable than what I think his personality alone would imply. I liked Stefan but I don't think I got to understand him that well nor was his personality as developed as it could. One of those details that in a longer story would happen more easily or more organically... I feel we were given enough, yes, to make him likable, but not as much as it could. 

Max is more interesting simply because he sees himself as straight when the story begins but the longer he knows and interacts with Stefan, the more thoughts on "what if" he has. I can accept this, after all people tend to focus on how others make them feel but I don't think we had sufficient scenes/reasons to believe Max was falling in love with Stefan, it could still be just a close friendship over so many common things. I get it, it's more interesting this way and I was glad they finally hit it off, but the execution didn't feel as great as it could.

I think this was a cute story, it's true it has all the necessary ingredients to be a romance, but I don't think the novella's pace worked out that well. Still, it was a story I liked reading and I might try something else by the author one day.
Grade: 6/10

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