Text Based Games – Why They Beat Graphics

By Christopher Davis

Text based games require more than just hand and eye coordination; they require you to open your imagination, each sentence another line in a great novel of fantasy. You can only go so far with graphics. Your mind is a powerful tool that can weave together intricate images that surpass anything a processor could do. Text based games not only get you into the story, but they make you an intricate part of it. There is only an end to your adventure when you choose to stop playing. Every time you log in to a text based rpg game a new experience lurks around the corner. You have full control of what happens to your character. Your own actions determine how the rest of the online text game world interacts with you. If you prove to be an annoyance a god might see fit to destroy you for your insolence. Or you could choose to worship a god and join their order. There is nothing linear about these text adventure games.

Graphics create limitations, imagination is endless with possibilities. The depth is unimaginable with the number of options you are given to lead your life. For example, most text based games give you the traditional choice of races you come to expect from the fantasy genre, such as human, dwarf, and troll. Additionally most online text games have a selection of unique races, such as insect or reptile breeds. The variety of classes is just as impressive. In graphical games you normally have a small list to choose from, but the opportunity for dozens of different combinations paired with races is possible in a text based rpg, or MUD. MUD means multi-user dungeon and the acronym is often paired with fantasy games that rely on text.

In text based games, opportunities are limitless with the options set before the characters you create. Along with the customization available it's possible to decide what path you take. You can become a shifty politician, dark knight, powerful merchant, benevolent priest, or anything you can dream of. You can use your character to interact with the world in a way that games with graphics cannot provide. You not only find yourself using your mind, but your heart as well. Intense emotions influence what you do and can bubble to the top when other players interact with you in these online text games.

Organizations exist on a deeper level of role-play that set themselves apart from the mundane MMORPGs that you play where it is more common to see out of character remarks. You can join organizations that help you along the way and consist of real players that keep it going. Decisions aren't made at random by a computer; they are made by people just like you that have decided to choose the alternative of a real time fantasy book. The level of realism is so great that politics can heavily effect the text based rpg game world's environment.

When you can experience not only an adventure but an entirely different life filled with many emotions you will begin to realize graphics can never amount to the depth and beauty that are MUDs. That is why text based games beat graphics.


  1. Agreed.


This is why MUDs and tabletop games still are going incredibly strong these days. The power of text or voice, combined with imagination and storytelling, defeats the best of graphics engines.

Yep, the draw to more active participation with the medium helps.

I agree, keeps your mind active!


Well said.

It's very true. Text-based games engage the mind on another whole level! I'd say that there are limits, but only because the game could not function without them.

Totally agreed!

This is very true.

lag is worse with graphics


There is so much more to discover!

is the best graphics card of all.

graphics-motherboard-processer in one.

screw audio, though.

Yup. Agree.

bring your own! :)

Hard to argue that the text world gives you plenty of options!

Great for spectacle, but not necessarily for story-telling.



They don't beat them. I don't think one is better than the other, just that each has it's plus points.

This is an accurate response. I agree with it.

I enjoy both as well, though from articles like these it's easy to tell that some prefer one over the other.


This, on the other hand, is a statement I agree with. Graphics have a purpose, and they're an entirely new dimension to add to a game, but if the game works without them, why add an unnecessary amount of work instead of working on what really makes the game fun?

The idea of "graphics sucks" is just a limited viewpoint (especially since IRE games - the ones all these "this is better than that" articles seem to argue for - actually do have a lot of graphics, in the form of art, IRE-created or player-created; it's just not in the game itself!) 

Speaking of large amounts of text... :>

I love both types, but text MUDs are by far more addicting for me..

I'm not fond of this article. There's no reason a graphical game can't contain roleplaying or player-run organizations or anything like that, and have fun finding a metric where text games objectively beat graphical games. Observe Minecraft or Second Life which are all about player creativity (and are both incredibly popular, too!). Also Spore, which is a terribly simple game, but lets anyone with enough patience make entire species for fun. As far as the depth of text MUDs, a lot of the text gets re-used. How many times have you used your bashing skill? Is it exciting anymore?

You could say IRE games have a minimal standard of roleplaying to at least make them interesting, but then they're competing with other roleplaying games like D&D, and as far as depth and imagination go, it's hard to compete playing a game brought to life by its very own players + GM(s), if you have anyone good to play with.

Are a lot more flexible design wise. The amount or work behind graphical games to make changes is exponentially greater.

Also can mud and keep up the appearance of doing work :)

Making my own description. Visual games suck because what you look like is pretty limited. The ability to just say what I look like, it's great.


It's nice indeed.

There is nothing like feeling like you're the guiding hand of a character in a book. That's the feeling that I get from text based games.

its like playing d+d with a hell of a lot of other players is why i like it 


  1. credits!

imagination is more powerful than graphics which are only a manifestation of the imagination  simply put

It's much easier to create content on the fly, rather than being limited to predefined effects


Graphics never live up to the hype. At least text sparkles your own imagination, only subtly steered by words.

So much better. The creators can focus more on the RP aspect rather than creating graphics

yep how would a god rain down its firey wrath destroying walls in a graphic game easy to do in a text based one :)

It's not that graphics based games do not allow for roleplay, it's just incredibly different when you rely entirely on your imagination.

From what I've seen, more people just use the preprogrammed graphic emotes as you can see the person and when they're not doing what they're emoting it can be a bit odd.



I like my imagination better than other people's lack :> .

Well said

When you comment their websites! Boundy FTW!

I find text great for immersion