Spotlight | Jared Sorenson Interview w/ Richard Ruane
Jared Sorenson was introduced to gaming through a school games club and a field-trip to Infocom, and hasn’t looked back since. He joined role-playing clubs, played a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP, and then created his first game company the late 90s and early 2000s, publishing such games as InSpectres (which inspired a movie) and Lacuna, as well as co-authoring the game FreeMarket and serving on the development team for Torchbearer. I got to catch up with him to discuss his upcoming collection of tabletop games that emulate classic text adventures, Parsley. Jared will be spotlighting the new Parsely Hardcover Book at the Parsely Launch Party on SAT 11/3 @ 1p.
Richard: What Is a Parsley Game?
Jared: They are analog versions of text adventure games, games such as Zork or Colossal Cave. These games are very evolved, interactive fiction where you type in your commands in the computer and it spits out responses. It's usually a lot of travel from room to room or situation to situation. In a Parsley game, you imagine that you're typing at a computer, except instead of actually typing, you're talking to a human being who has all the answers to all your replies.
If it's a reply that's not programmed--in other words, if it's not included in the game text--that's where you improvise like you would in a role-playing game. So your improvised response can be anything from a joke to a twist. You can be sarcastic, you can play out hints, or you can customize it to the person who's standing in front of you. The game can be one on one, or it can on 470 people. My biggest game was with 400 people. And everybody takes a turn.
Richard: What are your events like?
Jared: You're all sharing the same character and you’re taking a turn at the computer and giving one command in sequence.
It's really funny because people will obviously be planning their move but because the five people in front them did not do the “right” thing or did something unexpected, suddenly it's their turn and they have no idea what to do. They started off thinking “oh I know what I'm gonna do to get the sword,” but now you're not even near the sword. And then the people who are going after you might have completely different priorities. Some people want to do one thing and some people want to do another, and they're having a war over the character.
At these events, I don't help the players. I mean, as the computer I just take things very literally and I am super mean. If somebody just says out loud “what should I do?” I say “what should you do?” And then back to the end of the line they go.
Richard: What are your favorite games from the book?
Jared: There are two favorites: one is a classic, called Spooky Manor. This is kind of my ode to the maniac command games and gothic horror mystery. The layout of the Spooky Manor is actually the same layout as the board game Clue. Only one person has ever come up to me and said, “did you get that from Clue?” And I said, “you're the first person to figure that out!”
The newest adventure game is probably my favorite. It's called Danger Town and it’s set in 1987. It's very long, it's very complicated, and there are four main characters. I love it so much it actually prompted the book. I came up with this idea and was like, well this is not gonna fit in the usual adventure game format...
It’s funny that Danger Town is still not the largest part of the book. That would be the all-ages, kid-friendly one called Pumpkin Town, which is enormous. It's got a tons of characters and items that you can pick up, and it's made for any age. In a way. it’s actually the hardest game. It's the hardest one to play, but you don't have to worry about dying because you can't die in Pumpkin Town. It's impossible!
Richard: What should people expect at the event?
Jared: I will have great hair. I will be wearing all black. You can definitely expect me to be a little sarcastic, possibly under caffeinated. I will be running Spooky Manor and Pumpkin Town, because this will be right around Halloween.