One Chance

First, play the game.

Then, read the rest of this entry.


I think I probably got the worst possible ending. Given more time, I would have sat down and analysed the precise verbiage of the game. It says, on the one hand, "In six days all living cells on Earth will be dead", but it also says "You have one chance". At first glance these two statements are directly contradictory with one another. If you have one chance to save the Earth, then the first statement is an outright lie or at best a possible outcome. But it's presented as fact. So, I reasoned, I must have one chance to accomplish some other task. But what other task could be referred to? This point of confusion became my doom.

I accidentally went up the stairs to the roof on day two or three or so and witnessed a guy jumping off to his death. Stupidly, my character then evidently spent the rest of the day moping about and then went home! There was time for a full day's work in there!

That was the only mistake I made. I spent every single one of the other days in the laboratory trying to find a cure. By the final day, everybody on Earth was dead except my character and my character's daughter. On the final day, that is to say the day after all life on Earth except me and my daughter had been extinguished, I found the cure. There was big green tick on the computer screen. I injected her, and then we went to the park. It was entirely unclear whether the brown-coloured trees in the park had been killed by this virulent cell-destroying phage, or whether it was simply autumn. We sat there, the only two living creatures on a completely dead planet, and then, presumably years later, died ourselves. Pleasant!

So what was the point of the game? It had poor animation and not-terribly-good writing, although it succeeded in conveying feelings and atmosphere, so, as a work of art, I must give it a certain amount of credit.

The point, as I take it, was to find out who you are by seeing what your decisions were. The question is a very old and very well-known one, albeit not officially canonised in any widely known work of fiction as yet: "The world is going to end in a very small space of time. For the duration of that period, you are free to act entirely without consequence. What do you do?"

This is a question I first considered a very long time ago, long before One Chance was created. If you remember the Ed Stories, then you will have seen my (or rather, Ed's) response there. (I have long lamented that the Ed MacPherson of the Ed Stories is basically an idealised version of myself and this is certainly true here.) In this case, the specific means by which the world is about to end is an asteroid impact from deep space. And Ed's response (as mine would be in reality) is stop that asteroid and save the Earth.

The correct answer is save the world. It always has been. So a seemingly unstoppable threat is descending on humanity? Well, are we all dead yet? No? Then it's not over. So you have cancer? Then cure cancer. Awareness nothing, cancer research charities nothing. Get that biochemistry degree and throw your two million cents into the all-consuming maw of that grand machine we call science. Be experimental! Be worth it! This is my attitude. Right now, anyway. Admittedly, I don't have any serious illnesses yet.

The second thing that this game revealed about me is that I'm hesitant. I'm hesitant to commit myself to a course of action without having thought it over for a while. I got to day three or so before deciding "You know what? I'm going to save the world." I took every day as if it was an entirely new and independent decision, instead of approaching the whole seven-day/one-week storyline with a single specific goal in mind. In the latter case, I'm sure I'd have found the cure a day earlier and successfully saved the world.


The lesson here is know yourself. Figuring out your priorities from now until the end of your lifetime is not a trivial matter and takes time to get right. So take that time now, and get it right. What is valuable? What is important? Then, when the end of all creation or some other comparably gigantic life event comes knocking on your door, you won't die from sheer paralysed indecision. Smart people know what to do in every eventuality. Smart people see something happen, and act.

Given the choice, always save the world.

Discussion (34)

2010-12-12 23:28:37 by Sherp:

I played this too, and was somewhat disappointed by the lack of polish. The ending you got was actually the best one the game will give you. If you don't go up on the roof to watch the suicide, you'll find that the door to the lab is locked (for no adequately explained reason). As far as I can tell, the author's intent was to give you a choice between a hollow victory saving the last two people on the planet (yourself and your daughter), and taking the chance to make peace with your family and die quietly in each other's arms. That's a moderately meaningful choice, which it would not be if there was the option to save most of the human race. I didn't like One Chance very much. I agree with you: Always save the world.

2010-12-12 23:54:19 by Sherp:

I also agree with your point that figuring out a worldview that you can use to make sense of any situation ought to be a high priority for anyone. That's why science fiction is important: it gets your brain used to coming up with impossible ideas and problems and then *solving* them. This idea is eloquently put in this comic:

2010-12-13 00:30:03 by Col:

Yeah. I tried to play it and it broke. FSM help us if I ever have to save the world.

2010-12-13 00:45:00 by bbot:

I played through it several times, using several different computers. This might directly contradict the spirit of the game, but screw that guy. I do what I want. Your's seems to be the best ending. The "cells" sentence is carefully constructed. You've got one chance to save yourself. Also, the ultra lo-fi graphics add a degree of ambiguity to the ending. You never see your character actually inject her, and she never moves after you arrive at the lab. If you don't go to the lab on the final day, (spoilers:) she dies of the disease. Presumably, the disease progresses the same way no matter where you are, and at the end of the "good" ending, you're sitting on the bench with the body of your dead daughter.

2010-12-13 00:45:30 by Tanya:

You didn't make a mistake, by going up to the roof. I've played it a few of times after - you can't go in to work until you look at the rooftop and watch the guy jump from it. The door is locked. You didn't mess up, and from what I've heard, that's apparently the best ending you can get.

2010-12-13 02:35:55 by EthZee:

I don't know. Finding out my goals seems like a lot of effort. I think I'll settle for the paralysed indecision; that pretty much sums up my attitude to most things, anyway, so why not make it my goal? Job done: my goal is to find out what my goal is, at some unspecified point in the future (and always the future).

2010-12-13 02:58:49 by Matt:

I was feeling pretty unsatisfied too. I decompiled the game and there's 6 endings: * die with molly in park * die alone in park * jump off roof * die in lab * get stabbed * survive, as you did So it seems you can't save the world :/

2010-12-13 03:26:03 by Tobias:

Funny, I played the same way. There's just so many reasons why the scientist guy should be spending every day working: The plague was his fault, he's the most qualified person in the world to fix it and his family is directly affected by it. The game style looks like a direct copy of the much better "every day the same dream". The bit where you have to click "Park" or "Work" using the mouse really annoyed me, everything else in the game uses the keyboard.

2010-12-13 11:30:21 by Naleh:

I did the same things (including the hesitancy), for pretty much the same reasons. Not the most polished game, but it does get you thinking.

2010-12-13 15:22:24 by Kyle:

I ran it from the beginning deciding that I was going to save the world. There was one bit, I think it was the day before the research team commited suicide, that one gal at work asked if I'd like to head off to a bar because hey, the world's ending. I thought about it, and I realized that (IRL, of course) if I took that choice, I'd spend the entire time wondering if the time I took could have found a cure. I couldn't spend the rest of my (short) life wondering that. I guess, in the end, my thought process broke down like this: Spend my last days with my family, denying my responsibility to mankind and wondering if given the time I'd spent there, I could have cured the virus- or neglect my family for a few days and save billions. The choice was simple.

2010-12-13 22:57:06 by Matthew:

No, no no. I expected better of you. You can't save the world. That is the point, and it was a good point, and if you don't appreciate the storytelling involved in making it a good point you have no business writing stories yourself. The text tells you your conditions. Everything is going to die. Fact. You have one chance. Fact. The permanence of the one chance is only a means to an end. That end is causing an introspective evaluation of the choices you make when presented with a no-win situation. Because as a whole we would all replay it until we got the "good" ending, the game asks what happens if there is no good ending. If there is no replay. Deriding it for asking these questions is counter-productive.

2010-12-13 23:07:10 by qntm:

"You have one chance" to do what, then, if not save the world? If the purpose of the game is to force the player to examine his or her choice in a no-win scenario, then what is that sentence doing there? I played the game once, as you're supposed to, and, as described, I came away with several indications that I had missed the good ending by the skin of my teeth. I didn't play the game as if I was being forced into a no-win scenario, because the game failed to convey that, due to the ambiguity in its wording.

2010-12-13 23:38:30 by Sean:

On the last day, it says "You had one chance." even though I was still alive with my daughter and could apparently get the "we live" ending. To me that implied a better possible outcome than "live in the park" or "die in the park", but apparently that's not so.

2010-12-14 00:10:20 by Ross:

The story being told is that you have six days to spend. They are your chance. Not your chance to save the world, or even your chance to save yourself and your daughter; just your chance, your throw of the dice, your entry ticket. How you spend them is up to you, and makes no discernable difference in the outcome -- every cell in the world will die. I think the inclusion of the quote unquote good ending that Sam got actually weakens the story. Consider that no matter what you do, your wife dies, your coworkers die, all the vegetation dies. Why should there be an ending where you do not die? Only because gamers expect to be able to win. Well, life doesn't work that way. Take a look at Joe Mason's "In The End".

2010-12-14 00:33:10 by Ross:

It should go without saying that you do not have to <em>like</em> the story being told. But that's my take on how it is being told. The only mistake you made, Sam, was thinking you could win; you were dealt from a cold deck by a malicious author.

2010-12-14 06:54:58 by Turgid:

I played it exactly as Sam did. It never occurred to me that the "chance" meant anything but to prevent the disaster. That is, until the second-to-last day, at which point I said screw comforting my family if it means human survival. If they had just left out the "You have one chance." sentence I would not have assumed I actually had a chance to save anyone, and thus would have played as the author seems to have intended. In this case the heavy-handed dramatic message backfired. Better still would have been to say "You have 6 days." Or perhaps a simple countdown. "6...5...4..." I think the game says too much and thus prevents the player from realizing the situation for themselves. Side note: The mouse-only part annoyed me, too. I have a pet peeve of that kind of restriction in all programs. If you allow keyboard, allow it 100% throughout the program and in all cases, and same with mouse. It's not hard to test. Grr.

2010-12-14 10:26:21 by Naleh:

For what it's worth, even if I had known it was a no-win scenario I'd've still dedicated myself to the unattainable cure. Partly because it was my responsibility, as the one who unleashed it. But mostly because: Always save the world. Even if you can't, even if there's absolutely no hope, always try. Though - of course - I did want to spend time with my family, so each new day meant making that decision anew.

2010-12-14 14:45:39 by pascal:

Just FYI: if you want to replay the game on the same computer, right click on it, in the options go to local storage and set it to 0. It will ask if you want to delete the local data, say yes. Now you can reload the page and play the game again, in the end it will ask if it may store 10kB locally, which you can deny. I began to suspect it might be timed, just stay at home where you start or something… because the inevitability of the suicide on the roof seemed a bit odd to me…

2010-12-14 15:56:43 by Treblemaker:

Turgid wrote: "I think the game says too much and thus prevents the player from realizing the situation for themselves." Rather like many people in real life, then? I'm not convinced that was unintentional.

2010-12-14 21:24:45 by Typhon:

This is a pretty dull game, especially considering it ends with the apocalypse. There's not enough choice for it to make a good game (especially considering the unskippable cutscenes), there's not enough writing to make it a good story. As for "conveying feelings and atmosphere", it's mostly due to the music. Cut it off and you look at it such as it is : pixels moving around on the screen. It doesn't work at all the second time. Now, there's not supposed to be one, but this is just idiotic. If we take it as a game, we must be able to play several times, until we beat it. If we take it as a work of art, we shouldn't be forbidden to appreciate it completely by some limitation. This is akin to a painter forbidding people to see his magnum opus for more than a quarter of a second in a dark room. You know good games are good because you're willing to replay them over and over without feeling bored. You know good books are good because you are willing to read them again and again. A few days ago, I watched <i>Seven Samurais</i> for the third time and I felt moved by several character's deaths, despite the fact I knew how and when they were going to die. That's because they're believable as human beings, because the film's scenario isn't based on dubious tricks (such as a last minute twist). Typhon

2010-12-16 02:22:58 by atomicthumbs:

If you reload the page after being in the park with your daughter and the dead trees, the trees are green and you aren't there.

2010-12-16 13:29:26 by Snowyowl:

I played it with the intention of winning... and then gave in to my emotions on the penultimate day. My wife was already dead, it was "two days until every cell on Earth is dead", and if I went to work I might never have time for my daughter again. This wasn't a rational decision, and in retrospect I regret it, but given another chance I wouldn't change it. I didn't find a cure; I died alone in the lab. Apparently I am well-intentioned but too emotional. Frankly, I would never have guessed it.

2010-12-16 21:47:18 by SkyTheMadboy:

If the argument is that the game is a way of seeing how you would react to a no-win scenario, forced to face mortality, etc., then there's technically a seventh ending which I've gotten - don't play at all. Sure, maybe it's a cop-out, but I'm not particularly interested in either facing mortality, or being FORCED to face mortality. I intend to live forever (or at least until reality tells me "no"), and try to live as though I will.

2010-12-17 00:56:13 by Thrack:

I took the same path as Sam for the same reasons, except I resolved to save the world on day 1 rather than day 3. Near the end I considered the possibility of securing a group of people in an air tight chamber with life support systems to protect them from the virus/disease. In real life this is how I would have spent my six days, though my lack of genetics knowledge means I would have focused more on saving relatively few people rather than the whole world. In real life I would have searched for some means for survival even if I had not caused the apocalypse (and therefore held no guilt) and could only save myself and maybe a few others. My motivation is that I simply cannot accomplish my goals in six days but maybe I could in, say, a decade. (Although most of the human population being dead is suboptimal as far as my goals go.) If I chose to do anything else I suspect that I would be rather depressed the majority of the time. Then again I'd probably be depressed anyway considering people were killing themselves left and right in the game. But I have potentially workable ideas for survival and I can't simply not try them. Unfortunately, SkyTheMadboy, living as though you were immortal has the tendency to *reduce* your lifespan. I for one do not expect to live forever even if I could utilize mind uploading to dramatically increase my lifespan. Eventually the slow increase of entropy is going to kill me, if nothing else. Or maybe proton decay. Or the Big Freeze/Crunch/Rip/Bounce. Or what have you.

2010-12-18 11:21:36 by Hodou:

This discussion is characterized by what I view as the single most common misconception of the game -- that the ending where you find the cure is the "best" ending. In order to get to that particular ending, you have to shun your friends and family, work every single day, watch your coworkers commit suicide, lose your wife, and walk your daughter through the bloody mess that has become your ostensibly futile attempt to save what's left of the world. Can you really call it any better than your other options? If not worse?

2010-12-19 15:06:11 by Thrack:

It depends on who you are. For me that probably would be the best ending but perhaps not for someone else. Of course I'm not married either so maybe what would change if I were married? I think I would still make the same choices however.

2010-12-23 08:51:28 by Gruntbuggly:

I played it. It was a really boring waste of time. It's such a blatant, ham-fisted attempt at emotional manipulation, I don't understand how anyone can be affected by it. They could replace the whole thing with one line of text, "YOU SHOULD FEEL SAD," and it would be a little more subtle than what they've got now. I'm a fan of tragic stories if there's an interesting plot, or at least some entertaining gameplay to fill time. This has neither. I shouldn't have bothered.

2010-12-23 09:38:57 by Crane:

I felt the whole thing was far too heavy-handed. It could have been emotionally moving, but it forces your choices too often - I couldn't work on the day my coworker suicided because the lab was locked, I couldn't just kick the door in. I couldn't choose not to go and stare mournfully at my wife's body when her blood was seeping under the bathroom door. I couldn't choose not to go home, and to work through my nights. I felt that the designer had constrained my choices in order to ensure his no-win scenario played out, and I got the feeling that I was being beaten about the head with signs reading "THE WORLD IS DOOMED YOUR FAMILY ARE WHAT'S IMPORTANT SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY AND DO NOT ACT TO FIX YOUR OWN STUPID MISTAKE IN DOOMING HUMANITY!" Because I couldn't do as I wished, the consequences of "my" choices had no emotional impact for me.

2010-12-23 12:42:36 by nosesquid:

The premise of the game is that a cure for cancer somehow kills everything. This is obviously bogus: how could you not notice that 100% of the test subjects die within six days? Clearly they were all part of some voluntary extinction cult. This also explains how they avoided becoming contaminated themselves, before the "cure" was ready to be released. I stayed in character, and killed myself at the first opportunity once it was obvious the virus could not be stopped. It's a shame my wife had to go first, without me, but I couldn't have told her about the plan in advance - she was sensible, she would have valued the lives of all humanity over that of her husband. So yeah, the game has a lot of flaws and may or may not be a ripoff of Every Day the Same Dream, but judging by all the comments here, it's succeeding at making people think about it.

2010-12-28 04:14:17 by Jeremy:

I feel like the intention of the game probably was as a sort of Kobiyashi Maru, putting us in a no win scenario, but I agree with what most people said in that the whole "you have one chance" thing then becomes thoroughly misleading and actually works against that. It's a very emotional game with some ambiguity to its message, so maybe the fact that it didn't communicate definitively that it was a no-win scenario was intentional. That has meaning to it, too, but I feel the game would've been better without the "one chance" bit. I think we all played intending to save the world, which as you said is always the best choice, and denying that goal has value. I wonder, however, whether we chose that as human beings who fundamentally believe in that choice or as the type of people who play games and are thus expecting to be able to win. The most interesting thing about this game from my point of view is not that almost everyone chooses to try and save the world but that you could have several different motivations for doing so. The expectation that you can win, responsibility to the human race whose doom you have engineered, a valuation of a small chance of saving people over a larger chance of emotional closure, or even a responsibility to your family. I went after that last one, which seems to be a route no one here has yet taken. I decided to save the world because I saw the "find a cure vs. be with your family" thing as a false dichotomy: I couldn't be with my family unless I did find a cure. Because I did not want my family to die. For this reason, the (inevitable) death of the wife struck me pretty hard. It also took me a minute to realize that before the lab worker's suicide the lab remains locked no matter what. That's another feature I didn't like. So, I guess that's two ways it could be improved. The game really pivoted on how you understood that "one chance" thing and it seems like most of us here interpreted it the same way. Either way, though, I think the game accomplished its goal of getting us to think about our priorities.

2011-01-02 06:13:03 by Moarti:

this game is basically a straight piece of crap machinarium is better

2011-01-18 04:03:58 by Lee:

There is actually a very good piece of fiction that deals with this "death is inevitable" concept - it's On The Beach by Nevil Shute. Takes place in Australia after a nuclear war has destroyed the Northern Hemisphere and the fallout is slowly drifting southward to kill everyone. Great read, I highly recommend it.

2011-01-31 03:58:39 by Erik:

I think that something we are perhaps all overlooking is the comment made by atomicthumbs. Atomicthumbs arrived at the same ending as I did. I went to work in the lab as top priority every single day. I had the "good" ending (speculation), leaving myself and my (most likely) dead daughter sitting on a bench in the park, alone. Upon refresh, which I also did, the trees and countryside were green, yet I was gone. I assumed this was a metaphor for time passing... having since died alone in a world void of humanity. But... I did save the living things on earth, and given another 3 million years, perhaps another life form would somehow develop consciousness and discover what once was. This presents a much larger conclusion. If assuming that this was the desired take on the situation, your options are basically...1) Spend time with family (or others), give up and accept that not just humanity, but all life on earth will cease to exist (questionable to say the least, but let's just assume) - this accounts for all of the options except... 2) Save yourself only, yet save other living cells that may continue to flourish and survive. I have to say that I'm not aware of this concept (correct me if i'm wrong) being explored in science fiction in the past (save some form of life with expectations of further evolution, knowing full well that humanity is doomed). But please, correct me if I'm wrong.

2011-08-20 06:19:19 by JTKirk:

I found a seventh ending to the game; one that allows you to find the cure and save everyone. To achieve this ending all you have to do is re-program the game to allow you to do this. I don't like to lose...

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