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    What is ASCII art?

    ASCII art is the practice of creating images, designs, or text layouts using the 128 characters of the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) set.

    These artworks are made using characters like letters, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols to form patterns that resemble a visual representation.

    In text-based gaming, ASCII art is often used to create maps, depict objects, characters, or scenes, enhancing the visual element of the game without the use of images.

    However, ASCII art does not translate well when read aloud by screen readers; therefore, it is not considered very accessible.

    The history of ASCII art dates back to the early days of computers when graphics capabilities were limited. It became a popular form of expression on bulletin board systems (BBS), early internet forums, and in text-based gaming environments.

    ASCII art FAQs

    How is ASCII art used in text-based games?

    ASCII art in text-based games is primarily used to create visual representations of rooms, maps, items, or characters. This helps players visualize the game environment and elements within it, enhancing the overall gaming experience.

    Can ASCII art be animated?

    Yes, ASCII art can be animated by rapidly changing a sequence of ASCII images, creating the illusion of movement. This technique is used sparingly due to the complexity and the amount of text data required.

    Is ASCII art still popular today?

    While not as prevalent as during the era of text-only communication, ASCII art maintains a niche following, particularly in retro computing, text-based gaming communities, and online forums where users appreciate its artistic and nostalgic value.

    How do you create ASCII art?

    ASCII art can be created manually by arranging characters on a grid to form images or automatically using software that converts digital images into ASCII representations. The process requires patience and a good eye for how ASCII characters can mimic shapes and shading.

    Where can I find help for creating ASCII art?

    To get help with creating ASCII art, look for online tutorials or join forums and communities dedicated to ASCII art. Websites like ASCII Art Academy offer step-by-step guides.

    You can also use a text-to-art generator. There are a few available on the web, including:

    There are even tools to convert images into ASCII art, as well.

    Where can I find existing ASCII art to use?

    ASCII art can be time-consuming to create. Sometimes, it’s much easier to use existing art, especially for simple embellishment and decoration. To browse existing ASCII art, check out libraries or databases like ASCII ART or ASCII Art Archive.

    Ensure you respect copyright and usage rights. Some creations may be free to use, while others require permission from the artist. Always check the source and respect the artist’s guidelines.

    Myths about ASCII art

    A common misconception is that ASCII art is outdated or no longer relevant in modern gaming. In fact, ASCII art remains a cherished form of expression in text-based RPGs, adding visual elements and character to the gaming environment without the need for graphic images.

    However, while visually appealing to some, ASCII art is not accessible to all, particularly those using screen readers. This artistic medium relies heavily on visual perception, which can exclude individuals who depend on assistive technology. Therefore, it’s not appropriate for all text-based games, especially those with visually impaired players.

    For tips on creating a more accessible game, see: Building a better MUD for screen reader users.

    ASCII art examples

    • A simple smiley face: :-)
    • A representation of a tree:
     //  \\
    • A small house:
     /  \
    |    |
    • A stick figure person:
    / \

    Related terms

    • accessibility
    • MUD
    • RP
    • screen reader
    • soundpack

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    Smiling blonde woman wearing glasses.
    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."