Meeting Robb Sherwin by Jizaboz (2019)

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A parser-based slice-of-life game in which players assume the role of the author (Jizaboz) and attend Robb Sherwin’s wedding. Throughout the weekend, players will explore bits of downtown Denver, spend time at a hipster draft house, and hang out with… me?

Full Review:

Of all the experiences I’ve had in 40 years of playing text-based games, perhaps the most jarring was stumbling across a digital recreation of myself inside one of those games. To be clear, I don’t mean simply discovering a character that reminded me of myself; no, I mean literally encountering my name and physical description inside this game.

Meeting Robb Sherwin is a “slice-of-life” adventure. For those unfamiliar with that particular flavor of game, allow me to explain. Forty years ago, early text adventures offered very little narrative and were instead content with presenting players a series of puzzles which, when solved, would save them from (an often excruciating) death. Over time, text adventures evolved and matured into interactive fiction — text-based games with deeper stories that seamlessly mixed the art of fiction writing with more narrative-driven puzzles.

Meeting Robb Sherwin is neither of those things. Instead it is a digital recreation of a specific event — Robb Sherwin’s wedding — which took place in Denver, Colorado on June 30, 2017. Sherwin invited a couple hundred personal and online friends to join him that weekend. This game is a retelling (or perhaps more accurately, a reliving) of that event through the eyes of the author.

In the game, players assume the role of Jizaboz, one of Robb Sherwin’s friends who attended the wedding. Throughout the game, players will retrace the author’s steps by seeing the same sites, visiting the same places, and experiencing the same things he experienced in Denver. That weekend, Jizaboz traveled from the airport to La Quinta, made a purchase at a local cannabis shop, had a few drinks at a “Hipster Draft House,” and eventually attended Sherwin’s wedding. Those who successfully complete the game will do those same things in the same order. It is not designed to allow players to skip locations, because that’s not the way things happened. Unlike many works of interactive fiction, the author’s goal was not to offer players total freedom of choice; in fact, the exact opposite is true. For the most part, the game offers a single path from beginning to end, corralling players into replaying the events exactly how the author experienced them that weekend.

In real life, I encountered Jizaboz twice that Denver weekend: once at the draft house, and again the following day at Sherwin’s wedding. In the game, you (as Jizaboz) will encounter me in those same two locations. While you’re chatting with Flack (er, me) inside the draft house, Robb Sherwin will arrive, just as he did that afternoon. Later, on the day of the wedding, Jizaboz introduces himself to Jason Scott. Other characters Jizaboz encountered that weekend also make appearances — the tattooed woman working the desk at La Quinta, the clerk at the cannabis store, the young man who sat behind us at the wedding, and the mysterious guest who stole a piece of wedding cake before the ceremony ended all have cameos.

Because the game is a recreation of actual events, by design, it doesn’t feel (at least at first) that there is much room for experimentation. Don’t expect to object during the vows, or skip the event altogether and go skiing instead. That being said, not everything in the game is on rails, and certain situations can be manipulated just enough to change history. For example, with a few poor choices it is even possible to make poor Jizaboz miss the wedding. By sticking to the narrative (at times game tells you exactly what to type in order to progress) the game is easy enough to coast through, but there’s definitely a little room for exploration during multiple playthroughs.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room — who exactly is the target audience for Meeting Robb Sherwin? Perhaps being so close to the source material, my initial instinct was that only those who know Jizaboz or Robb Sherwin would truly appreciate this game, but after a few days of gameplay, I’ve expanded the potential audience. The slice-of-life genre was new to me, but definitely has a following. Not everyone enjoys the sprawling worlds and mind-bending puzzles presented in many parser-based games. Those just dipping their toes into parser games or not interested in a week-long gaming session will enjoy a smaller and more linear game such as Meeting Robb Sherwin. Plus, you know, you get to meet Robb Sherwin.

(And me!)

Link: Meeting Robb Sherwin