You Only Have One Chance

Posted on by Pastabagel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

In six days every living cell in the world will die. You have one chance to save the world. If video games can be art, One Chance is an early masterpiece.

Play One Chance. Don’t look at the spoilers. Just go play it. It takes less than 10 minutes. But you can only play it once. (Unless you clear your cache and delete Flash cookies.)

How did the game end for you? What motivated your choices? Was the ending satisfying? In the context, was it? Do you see any potential in the design of this game for more complex, more graphically immersive games? If you could see the other endings, would that improve the game, or diminish its impact? 

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32 Responses to You Only Have One Chance

  1. EvelynTremble says:


    Wow, what a downer. I kept going to work to try and fix the damage, but when given the *second* opportunity, cheated on the wife (who killed herself in the bath), and ended up dying in the park accompanied by the daughter.

    I started off wanting to do the right thing (figure out a fix to the plague) then dropped that particular goal because I had the impression this was how the plot was “supposed” to go. I now strongly suspect it wasn’t, but it’s far too late for that now. I don’t mean “Wow, what a downer”, do I? “Wow, what a complete bastard I am in these games” seems far more appropriate.

    Good idea for a game, but the ridiculous McGuffin of a vaccine spread as a gas, which turns out to be lethal reminded me uncomfortably of that terrible “I Am Legend” remake. The ending that I reached was far more poignant (slowly dying in the snow) than my character deserved.

  2. Dan Dravot says:

    What motivated your choices?

    Spoiler: You hold down the arrow key and a cute little cartoon moves in predetermined straight lines. Sometimes when you press the spacebar, the background image changes. Every so often text appears at the bottom. Sometimes the screen goes black and text appears, saying “in i number of days everybody will be dead; i = i – 1″.

    The only choice I was able to identify was the choice to stop playing, which I chose on Day 2. That choice was motivated by my belief that any developer willing to waste that much of my time was likely to waste more of it.

    YMMV, pretty clearly. Maybe it gets better later on. But I started laughing the second time I had to hold down the right arrow key while the little car moved slowly across the screen. What is the point of requiring the user not merely to sit through that nonsense, but to press the right arrow key the whole time? Is that supposed to be entertaining? Challenging? Suspenseful?

    • CubaLibre says:

      The fatal problem of basically every “art game” (what an ugly phrase). You prove nothing by foisting the most basic and uninteresting interactivity onto what is essentially a choose your own adventure book. Why not just pick the most compelling of the storylines and write a novel/make a movie? Because it’s about holding up a mirror to yourself, man, what would you do? But because the game is so limited in scope, the theme is transparent and there can be no investment on the part of the player.

      This is an “early” masterpiece of game art? I dunno, Super Mario Bros. was 25 years ago.

  3. Elkaintmoose says:

    And, *MORE SPOILERS*, of course:

    Wow. I toed the “global responsibility” line (admittedly with a dash of “resolute movie hero” thrown in), and worked diligently for a cure…until my wife died. Interesting—I think after that point if I had been given a binary choice: leave kid and work, or stay with kid—I would have been sorely tempted to choose the daughter over saving the world. The automatic “take your daughter to work day” made it easier to carry on with the course I’d chosen.

    On the last “work v. park” choice, I really doubted whether one more shot at work would make a difference. It did, but I’m not sure I’m reading what I guess the final scene is—did my daughter die? (I’m guessing yes, but it’s hard to read…) More importantly, did other people survive? Was my sacrifice worth it in that regard?

    Another interesting point, perhaps related to the questions above and EvelynTremble’s “bastard” remark ;-)—to what extent do our game personas’ choices differ from potential reality? I.e., how much does the underlying understanding that “it’s only a game” reflect in our choices, even if we try to project ourselves into the character?

    • Pastabagel says:

      SPOILER, I think that not only does the daughter die if you come up with the cure, but so does everyone else. So the point would be you get to survive alone, but would you want to?

      More to the point, I think once we know the game can’t be replayed (easily), we tend to play in a way that reflects what each of us individually would value, if for no other reason than to hopefully get some validation in that value choice.

      There are a number of these “art games” out there (though not many) so if people like them I can post more.

      • BHE says:

        Yeah, that’s pretty much what I did. I figured, “one chance”, this will probably be a small metaphor for life in general. I went to work the first day, but when it went to day two immediately thereafter (which was unsatisfying) I tried to make the most out of my remaining days in the way I would choose in a similar scenario. But that was sort of impossible, you couldn’t really just stay home and play with your daughter. So I did this strange amalgam of going to work, then going back home to be with family, and at one point sleeping with my coworker because my choices were so limited, oh, and I watched a worker commit suicide. Finally I took my daughter to the park, which I was happy about, but she died. It seemed like a pretty crappy last chance in terms of range of options. And it was depressing.

        On the last day, my wife and daughter dead, I jumped off the roof. It just stayed frozen on the final screen. Thanks for the total bringdown, game!

      • David Ma says:

        It actually can be replayed very easily. Flash sandboxes storage, hence the game has it’s own local store for game state and such. You can wipe that store by right clicking on the object, going to settings, local storage, then setting the local storage to zero.

  4. CarbonCopy says:

    This is a totally different type of game than I am accustomed to playing. I guess it reflects life in that you have to live with your decisions and don’t get to ‘play’ again. It also reminded me why Contra has infinite ammunition, continues, and a reset button.

    • countingtoten says:

      There’s a similar flash game (looking for it) that takes place over a week where each day you go into work more and more disheveled and depressed. You eventually are allowed to jump off the roof. Ever since I saw they had door to roof, I’ve been trying to jump. I don’t really like that it prevents that from being an option. The other doctor got to jump.

    • countingtoten says:
      Everyday the Same Dream tells the story with the exact same style, a day to day progression with more and more options opening as the days continue.

      I didn’t feel like I had any control over You Have Only One Chance even though Everyday the Same Dream gives you fewer options. In Everyday the Same Dream you don’t know how it will end and what actions you can take, so it’s more about exploring possibilities, but You Have Only One Chance has a defined narrative. You know that everyone will die, but from the start you can’t spend time with your family. You have to wait until the game allows you.

      There was no mystery or exploration, and my desires conflicted with what the game would permit. The instant the cute girl at work asks if you want to celebrate with drinks you know you will eventually hit that. Quelle surprise

      Did not like it.

      • Pastabagel says:

        I never once chose to go out with the cute girl from work. Isn’t it interesting that you felt like that outcome was inevitable?

        The game is interesting because it distills everything down to choice, and reveals how much of the choice is actually impulse.

        • mwigdahl says:

          What signifier did you use to determine the girl was cute? Maybe she was just desperate.

      • philtrum says:

        The instant the cute girl at work asks if you want to celebrate with drinks you know you will eventually hit that.

        I didn’t.

        I followed the same path Elkaintmoose did, going to work every day but the last. But it seemed as if staying home with the family wasn’t really an option. The game doesn’t allow you to get back in bed with the wife or interact with the little girl, as far as I can tell, so you just sort of…stand there.

  5. *SPOILER*

    I played with the intention of trying to find a cure no matter what, so I always chose to go to work, and even when it said “You had one chance” I still went to work. I injected myself, and I assume the daughter is not dead because she never laid down.

    However, the next instant I was in the park, and the game never stopped, nor could I move. Was that the actual way it ends?

    Reading the comments I see there were other possibilities. But the fundamental problem of this game, of many games, is that it violates it’s own rules. Every living cell will die, but obviously that’s not true. I have one chance, but that’s also not true– is there any way of finishing the game that results in saving the world?

    Why would the daughter survive and not the mom? Why you and not the wife, not anyone else in the lab?

    So the game puts you as the main character and by design prohibits you from seeing others as individuals– they’re just objects for you to “u to use.” So what possible choices are there to make? Save the world, save the family? Those things by design don’t matter except as props, you’re not saving them, you’re trying to win the game. Hence the only logical choice in this game is to keep making choices that allow you the most freedom: going to work.

    • Pastabagel says:

      On the fourth day (6-5-4), if you go to the roof, the boss gives you the option of going home. You can go home and be with your family that day and the next day, after which people start dying. You also have the option of going to the park with your daughter. So you don’t have to go to work. The point of the game is not to achieve something, but rather to decide what you are going to be doing over the course of the game.

    • somethingtohidebehind says:

      *Probably spoilers*
      It seems you are completing a sentence that is purposely ambiguous. “You only have one chance.” One chance to do what? You seem to complete the sentence with “to save the world (to win the game).” It seems that the game is playing off of that expectation when the premise of the game could just as easily be taken fatalisticly (the world cant be saved) to mean that you have one chance to enjoy your family. “Going to work” is the only logical choice if you assume the end state as saving the world. “Winning the game,” in a way. These art games try to put more importance on the experience even if the “completing” or “finishing” is implicit in a form that has an end point. Is finishing the vaccine really winning? Is winning the game the important part of playing a game?

      And I’m not sure why you wouldn’t see “work” as a prop, as a relational object, as no more of a free choice than any of the other “u to use” objects in the game. The design demands that anything you interact with is an object. How is “work” any different than “the mom/wife?” They are all just objects to tell you about you (the protagonist).

  6. Interesting that I wrote “the mom” and not “the wife.”

  7. AdamSaleh1987 says:

    This videogame is a remake of “Everyday the Same Dream”

  8. eqv says:

    I ended up not choosing to get with the cute girl from work, but it didn’t make a difference. Tried to ‘work’ to cure the problem up until the last day, where I chose to go to the park with the daughter and die on a bench in the snow.

    I dunno. I liked it, I guess. The first time I played ‘Every Day the Same Dream’ it really threw me. Enormously depressing. This felt more contrived.

    I liked the little shoutout to Half-Life with the coloured lines on the walls leading to ‘Lab’ and ‘Roof’, although admittedly it was kind of cutesy.

    What I took from it was much the same as what I took from ‘Every Day the Same Dream': you are ‘supposed’ to spend time with family when the boss offers you a chance to, instead of mindlessly going to work, an exercise in futility. Presumably this would prevent the wife’s suicide, although probably not.

  9. mwigdahl says:

    If you felt this kind of game was an artistic masterpiece, you should check out the interactive fiction works of Victor Gijsbers (De Baron, Fate).

    They are profoundly affecting and present moral dilemmas in well-written text — a much more effective medium, in my opinion, than retro 8-bit sidescrolling punctuated by one-line responses.

    • Pastabagel says:

      Fate was a great game, and really shows what can be done with IF. I have not played De Baron, though, but I’ll make time to check it out. Care to recommend any others?

      • AlexWolfe says:

        My favorite “game-as-art” that’s also a brilliant puzzle game is called Braid. I think it’s the greatest art game ever made, but that’s obviously debatable. A link to it:

        The story in braid is all about narrative and perception. It’s completely worth the ten dollars. The story is about Tim, a man who can control time, going through a series of stages to rescue the princess. If you’ll never play the game and want to see why I hold it in such high regard, here’s how it ends when you find the princess. Fair warning: this will ruin the entire game for you if you watch it.


      • mwigdahl says:

        Recommend some good IF? I’d be more than happy to! :)

        The following are all top-caliber IF games that make an attempt at artistic or moral significance or play with perspective in innovative ways. Most are fairly quick to play. The links I’ve provided are to pages where you can download the game, read reviews and a brief description, and in some cases launch it directly in your browser.

        LASH — Local Asynchronous Satellite Hookup — Paul O’Brien.
        Shrapnel — Adam Cadre
        Photopia — Adam Cadre
        Fail-Safe — Jon Ingold
        Rameses — Stephen Bond
        Slouching Towards Bedlam — Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto

        The following are just excellent games that reflect some of the most innovative trends in modern IF:

        Spider and Web — Andrew Plotkin
        Varicella — Adam Cadre
        The Gostak — Carl Muckenhoupt

        This is probably the most ambitious story ever attempted as IF. Plenty of newbie-friendly features, a rich environment and plenty of chances to make substantive choices in how the story plays out…

        Blue Lacuna — Aaron Reed

        And then there’s my contribution to the art form! Not as philosophically sophisticated as many of these, but if you’re a fan of boys’ adventure fiction, you might like it:

        Aotearoa — Matt Wigdahl

  10. thestage says:

    uh oh, looks like art games are starting to go viral.

    lets just say this is nothing special on any level

  11. Pingback: Chance missed. | Partial Objects

  12. Guy Fox says:

    The parameters were infuriating. At first, the game kept saying “In X days, every cell on the planet will die”. There was no condition of “…unless you work late in the lab, which might actually help.” As long as it was presented in the indicative mood, there wasn’t really any point in working at all, was there? But when your colleagues show up and say “We might have something. We need you back at the lab.”, well, that changes the parameter of possibility. Had it been clear that effort might have had any effect, I would’ve pursued the midnight oil strategy from the beginning, and had it been definitively hopeless throughout, I would’ve totally neglected work. Instead, I did as little work as possible (given the constraints of the forced commute, etc.) at the beginning, and then worked constantly as soon as there was any hope. This mixed strategy netted me an angry wife, dead daughter, and a solitary expiration for myself on the lab floor.

    And countingtoten, don’t cheat on your wife, even if she’s just pixels. Invite her along with the cute colleague, tell her it’s over, whatever, but the existence of opportunities doesn’t entail a value in opportunism. A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man, bro.

  13. Hypocrisy Illustrated says:

    The game didn’t work so well on my system. It ends up frozen when the scientist is sitting with his daughter in the snow and can’t be restarted.

    Also I can’t find the score to see how many points I won…

    Maybe I’ll try that Farmville game instead that everybody seems to be talking about.

    … But seriously….

    If people know they have fewer than 5 days left, why did they throw this away with suicide?
    Sure it’s hopeless, but no matter what, 5 days, 500 or 5000, it really always is hopeless.
    Sadly despite all medical advances, the human mortality rate stubbornly has been staying close to 100%.

    If they don’t have the patience to wait out just 5 days, why do so many have the stamina to go on for 50 years or more? It’s all pointless. The world can be awful and people are pretty annoying. Nobody ever freely chose to be born, but why do they go on with it no matter how long or little they have left?

    Why don’t more people just go for it – that ultimate peace? Many drift in that direction. The Last Psychiatrist seems to like his Rum, if he’s at all being serious about that. Plenty of other addicts and junkies negate their life and libido with other chemicals, mindless distractions and pointless habits. (Engaging in mental masturbation and sharing thoughts with anonymous strangers across the internet perhaps?). Very seductive indeed. But why don’t more have the courage to embrace the ultimate peace?

    • JohnJ says:

      I think at least some of it has to do with a feeling of being in control. Powerlessness is a very depressing feeling, because it is virtually the same as hopelessness. The difference between five days of control and (a hopeful) fifty years is, for many people, the difference between night and day.

  14. boeotarch says:

    I plaid it going straight to work every day, except on the second when I somehow spent a whole day watching a coworker jump off the roof. On the last day it gave me the “everybody’s dead anyway lol” screen so I took the daughter to the park.

    Seems like the basic options were work/screw around with the only character with cleavage/stay home, followed by show the daughter the dead mom/don’t, followed by take her to the park/don’t. The Macguffin and the lack of really interesting choices meant I was pretty much propelled through the thing by curiosity.