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

One Room is a text adventure game 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.

One Room is set in a single room (duh), in which the player-character is trapped. The object of the game is to escape from the room. One Room is therefore a contender for the title of 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 published program-listing contains several bugs — which are documented at the Gaming After 40 blog (for which I’m extremely thankful) — 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 Tandy / Radio Shack retail empire as it was in the 1980s.

• You can play One Room online in your browser at bbcmicro.co.uk: I’ve ported the original program to BBC BASIC and fixed a few bugs to boot. (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 also 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. Nevertheless, in the manner of the BBC (clinging white-knuckled to the dogma of “balance” while giving airtime to people whose opinions would make even Sauron blanch), I’ve decided to entertain the dissenters. Their argument seems to be that if the source code of One Room implements six distinct “locations” then it shouldn’t really be considered a one-room game at all. But what they fail to appreciate is that describing One Room as a single-room game and as a game that implements multiple locations isn’t a contradiction. A game can be both of those things at the same time. Note that in One Room you can stand in one “location” while you pick up an object in another location — which isn’t exactly normal for a game that’s not about Elastigirl. Clearly, the “locations” in One Room aren’t so much separate places as different parts of the same place, and that’s how they’re described to the player: “I am facing the north wall” or “I am looking at the floor” for example. Plus, there’s the almost too-obvious-to-mention fact that the program is referred to as a one-room game several times in the Rainbow Book of Adventures itself, including in the actual source code. What more do you need, for crying out loud? I mean, the game’s literally called One Room! If you’re going to reclassify it as No Longer A Single-Room Game, then you’ll have to check all 189 games tagged “single room” on IFDB too. And make sure you triage every entry in the L’avventura è l’avventura (One Room Game Competition) as well…

†  I was trying to exaggerate for comic effect. (Yes, the best jokes are the ones that need explanatory footnotes.)

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