Many early computer games, beginning in the 1960s, were programmed using American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). The developers of Dwarf Fortress, a single-player fantasy game launched in 2006, purposely forwent subsequent developments in computer graphics, choosing ASCII’s retro aesthetic. Rather than relying on a naturalistic three-dimensional interface, the game generates its own complex world (which the player can modify) out of classic two-dimensional tiled building blocks and text-based graphics. The goal is to build a viable dwarf settlement in a vast user-generated world of continents and seas. Every terrain has multiple levels, on the surface and below it, with more than two hundred rocks and minerals that players can mine and make tools from. In order to succeed, players must forge alliances with competing civilizations, consider how a wide range of factors (including natural resources and weather conditions) will influence their dwarf colonies, and learn to navigate an abstract world.
Gallery label from Applied Design, March 2, 2013–January 31, 2014