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.

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 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 — which are 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 retail 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 at all. 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’ve 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. But what they completely fail to realise is that there isn’t actually any contradiction in describing it not only as a one-room game but also as a game that implements six locations. It’s both. Note too that in One Room you can be standing in one “location” while picking 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 just different parts of the same room (in terms of the story), and they’re 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 actually described as a one-room game several times in the Rainbow Book of Adventures, where it first appeared, including in the source-code itself. The game’s called One Room, for crying out loud! If you’re going to reclassify it 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 go through all the games in the L’avventura è l’avventura (One Room Game Competition) as well… 

†  I’m trying to exaggerate for comic effect. (I suspect I’m not succeeding.)

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