Text-based game

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A text game or text-based game is an electronic game that uses a text-based user interface, that is, the user interface employs a set of encodable characters such as ASCII instead of bitmap or vector graphics.

Text-based games have been well documented since at least the 1960s, when teleprinters were interlaced with mainframe computers as a form of input, where the output was printed on paper. With that, notable titles were developed for those computers using the teleprinter in the 1960s and 1970s, and numerous more have been developed for video terminals since at least the mid-1970s, having reached their peak popularity in that decade and the 1980s, and continued as early online games into the mid-1990s.

Although generally replaced in favor of video games that utilize non-textual graphics, text-based games continue to be written by independent developers. They have been the basis of instigating genres of video gaming, especially adventure and role-playing video games.


Strictly speaking, text-based means employing an encoding system of characters designed to be printable as text data.[1]:54 As most computers only read binary code, encoding formats are typically written in such, where a bit is the smallest unit of data that has two possible values and each combination of bits in a byte represents. [1]:52 That said, a text-based game is any electronic game whereby information is conveyed as encoded text in the user interface.

Although technically graphical when displayed on a computer monitor, text data is sometimes contrasted with graphics as the former is text-only; data representation conveyed via an output device is restricted to a given set of encodable characters and the total number thereof, as well as graphical capabilities. For example, ASCII uses 96 printable characters in its set of 128,[2]:27 whereas ANSI uses both ASCII and 128 additional characters from extended ASCII and allows the text to be variously colored, allowing for further possibilities.[2]:19 Text data also has the advantage of requiring small processing power and minimal graphical capabilities by modern standards,[3] as well as significantly reducing production costs compared to graphical data.[4]

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