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  • Writer's pictureIndy Goodwin

You Awake To Find Yourself In A Dark Room! A Chat with John Robertson

Updated: Nov 25, 2019

The Dark Room video game performance art show has been touring the UK video games conventions circuit this year to the delight of audiences everywhere. The show is like being at a more sweary pantomime with audience members exploring the dark room, which has more than its fair share of dark secrets. Young and old alike are captivated, trying anything they can to escape and win the prize of £1000. Very few have managed to escape its clutches. You don’t go home empty handed when you play though, one lucky little boy receiving a traffic cone for his efforts, a Mario cosplayer taking home an empty Costa cup.

The enigmatic man behind the adventure is John Robertson. Crackling with energy, Mr Dark Room is charming and intense. Despite describing text based adventure games as “mortally shit” he has a great love for them, starting at a young age. “At school we ended up playing a game where you were in a cave where you couldn't do anything. If you grabbed something you would just always grow weaker and die. And then years later my friend Tom made a text adventure just to prank me. Everything I wrote it would very pompously say I don't understand as a verb I don't understand it as a verb. When I wrote ‘Fuck you’ it went ‘Shut up John’. I loved it.”

The Dark Room evolved out of Robertson’s comedy act. “I used to have a five minute stand up routine about it and one day I did it at a show and the crowd just started playing along which meant that that five minutes eventually became 45 very agonizing minutes for everybody. We then turned that into a live show to give to the Fringe and now seven years later it's most of my career.”

Robertson has now taken his show all over the world and worked the UK games convention circuit this year. Unsurprisingly, Glasgow is one of his favourite places to perform. “Scotland is incredible but Glasgow as any Glaswegian knows is its own thing. You have a good night performing as a comedian in Glasgow.”

Robertson is a man who has found his niche, and it’s delightful to watch. Over the years he has one moment that really sticks out however. “We FIFA bombed a boy - which is I go to game stores and I buy all of the crap old PS3 and Xbox 360 games, about 40 of them. I just dropped them on the boy. He was covered. People thought the boy was dead. He jumped out of the pile triumphantly. What a clever young man.”

The Dark Room is like no other experience out there and it is clear to see why it attracts legions of dedicated fans. No two shows are the same, and Robertson is a fantastic, androgynous, chaotic host. Without him this show could have fallen flat on its face, but with his boundless energy and zero moral qualms about shouting “Bullshit!” into a child’s face while the parents laugh it is impossible to not be swept up into his crazy fantasy world. Will you escape the dark room? Or succumb to its horrors?

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