A Dark Room

A Dark Room
Developer(s) Doublespeak Games
Publisher(s) Doublespeak Games
Designer(s) Michael Townsend, Amir Rajan (iOS)

Release date(s) 2013
Genre(s) Online text-based role-playing game
Mode(s) Single-player

A Dark Room is an open-source software role-playing text-based game originally published in mid 2013 for web browser by Doublespeak Games. Later that year it was released in the App Store for iOS devices. In 2014 a prequel entitled The Ensign, which provided more insight into the world and its characters, was released for iOS.


A Dark Room was created by Michael Townsend and released for browsers on June 10, 2013.[1] According to Townsend, the game was designed to tell its story entirely through environmental cues, rather than relying on exposition and dialogue.[2] In July 2013, Townsend released the source code of the game on GitHub under the open source license MPL 2.0.[3] Soon, Townsend was contacted by developer Amir Rajan, who asked for permission to adapt the game for iOS.[2][4] Amir ported the game to iOS using the RubyMotion mobile toolchain,[5] and released it on the App Store in late 2013.[2] In 2014 until 2016 release there was work on an Android port of A Dark Room.[6][7]


The game begins with the player awakening in a cold, dark room after a mysterious event.[2] Initially, the player can only light and tend a fire in the room. As the game progresses, the player gains the abilities to collect resources, interact with strangers, start a village, and explore the world. As the game progresses, the type and quantity of resources and exploration available increases.[8] According to The New Yorker, "What follows is a strange hybrid, part mystery story and part smartphone productivity software...the game evokes the simplest text-based computer games of the nineteen-seventies while stimulating a very modern impulse to constantly check and recheck one’s phone. It’s like a puzzle composed of deconstructed to-do lists."[2] The site added, "You can begin to see a structure emerge from the fragments, but where that structure will lead you remains impossible to predict, and so the compulsion to keep pressing little word buttons grows stronger."[2]

Critical reception

TouchArcade gave the game a rating of 4 out of 5, writing, "It's a strange little thing, to be sure, but I'd definitely recommend A Dark Room to people who appreciate off-beat RPGs, fans of experience-driven games, or really anyone looking for something a little bit different from usual."[9] Slide to Play rated it 3 out of 4, commenting, "It may not seem like much at first, but if you stick around long enough, it’s easy to fall under A Dark Room's spell."[10] 148Apps gave the game 3 out of 5, writing, "A Dark Room may have plenty of longevity and may be genuinely intriguing, but its interface feels undeveloped in its iOS iteration."[11]

The New Yorker explained, "When A Dark Room was first released on iPhone, at the end of 2013, the game was listed in a number of Best of the Year lists, including those published by Forbes, Paste, and the gaming site, Giant Bomb."[2] The app "rocketed to the most-downloaded spot in the App Store’s games section in April and stayed there throughout the month".[2]

Engadget praised the game's surprise ending, writing that "...it's definitely worth the time it takes to find it."[12]


  1. "A Dark Room released". Doublespeak Games. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Thomsen, Michael. "A Dark Room: The Best-Selling Game That No One Can Explain". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-07-14. Townsend was happy to share his work with Rajan. “I want to kindle the creative spirit in others,” Townsend told me over e-mail. “My games are open-source because I want people to learn from them, or use them to build their own things.”
  3. "A Dark Room goes open source". Doublespeak Games. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  4. "A Dark Room on iOS". Doublespeak Games. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  5. "RubyMotion Success Story: A Dark Room". RubyMotion Blog. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  6. a-dark-room-android-entering-private-beta
  7. "A Dark Room is now on Android!". Blog.doublespeakgames.com. 2016-07-11. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  8. Alexander, Leigh. "A Dark Room's unique journey from the web to iOS". Gamasutra. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  9. Shaun Musgrave (2013-12-06). "A Dark Room Review". TouchArcade. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  10. "A Dark Room Review". Slide to Play. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  11. Our Review by Lee Hamlet on March 31st, 2014 (2014-03-31). "A Dark Room Review". 148Apps. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  12. Wehner, Mike. "You should spend some serious time in A Dark Room". Engadget. Retrieved 19 October 2015.

External links

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