One Room (1983) — the first one-room game?

One Room is a text adventure game that was written by Jorge Mir for the TRS-80 Color Computer. It was published as a program-listing in the first Rainbow Book of Adventures in 1983.

As the name suggests, One Room is set in a single room, in which the player is trapped. The object of the game is to escape from the room. One Room is therefore a contender for the title of the First Ever Room-Escape Game. (Or maybe not.) It might even be the first text adventure game to be set in a single room (but possibly not).*

Although the program-listing as published in the Rainbow Book of Adventures contains several bugs (as discovered and documented at the Gaming After 40 blog, for which I’m extremely grateful), the game is nevertheless intriguing and full of quirky ideas: it’s constructed around an innovative plot device; it comes with a built-in HELP system; it includes a surprising miscellany of objects that you can manipulate; and it’s of historical interest not only because it might be the first game of its kind but also because of the way that certain objects in the game tie in to the wider Tandy / Radio Shack empire.

Play One Room online. I’ve ported the original program to BBC BASIC, and fixed a few bugs in the process. You can play the port online, in-browser, at bbcmicro.co.uk.

More details about the port can be found at the Stardot forum. One Room also has entries at CASA (solutionarchive.com) and at the Interactive Fiction Database.

My YouTube video features a quick playthrough of the first part of the game.

A disk-image of the original TRS-80 version of the game is available. It can be played in JS Mocha, the online TRS-80 CoCo emulator.


* There are people who argue that One Room isn’t actually a one-room game. Those people are wrong. But, in the manner of the BBC — who, while clinging white-knuckled to the dogma of “balance” above all else, end up giving airtime to people with views that would make even Sauron blanch — I have decided to entertain the dissenters (albeit only in a badly formatted footnote).†  The naysayers protest that since One Room is implemented as six distinct locations in source-code, it shouldn’t really be considered a one-room game at all. But what they completely fail to realise is that there isn’t actually any contradiction in describing One Room as a single-room game and as a game that’s implemented in six locations. It’s both. Note also that in One Room you can stand in one “location” and pick up an object in another — which isn’t the norm in text adventure games that aren’t about Elastigirl. You see, the “locations” in One Room aren’t really separate places at all: they’re different parts of the same room, in narrative terms, and are described to the player as such: e.g. “I am facing the north wall”, “I am looking at the floor”, etc. And then there’s the almost too-obvious-to-mention fact that the game is described as a one-room game several times in the Rainbow Book of Adventures, including in the source-code itself. The game’s actually called One Room, for crying out loud! If you’re going to start reclassifying One Room as Not A Single-Room Game, then you’ll also have to triage the 189 games tagged “single room” on IFDB. Oh, and make sure you check all the games in the L’avventura è l’avventura (One Room Game Competition) as well… 

†  I’m trying to be hyperbolic for comic effect. (Though I suspect I’m not succeeding.)

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