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To Persist/Exist/Endure, Press 1

by Anthony O


Web Site

(based on 13 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

Thank you for calling the Agency Of Neverending Happiness and Clearing Out Monsters From Under Your Bed! We offer assistance in all matters related to your well-being and any supernatural troubles you might have.

Content warning: references to anxiety and depression

Game Details


50th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)


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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
The real happiness was the game design choices I noticed on the way, November 26, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

I remember being proud of myself for learning how to deal with long wait times on the phone. It was a bit annoying, sure, but I had things to do. I would plan out, for instance, cleaning out browser tabs or whatever, or maybe even tinkering with a particularly tricky script. Or I cleaned off my desk or, if the phone cord reached that far (back when all phones had cords,) the fridge or sink or whatever. It's changed over the years. But the important thing is, I have something to do, and I've gotten over the boredom and fear and so forth. There are some worries that I will get distracted and maybe even put the phone down, and that is exactly when the hold musical breaks, and the operator will say "Is anybody there?" and then hang up when they don't hear me.

Now I don't particularly deserve an award for this trivial bit of adulting. The cheesy line is that finding something to do to fill in that spare time is reward enough. I've even managed to find gethuman.com to save me a bit, too. I kind of had an ethical dilemma with that one: I was sort of lying to get to the head of the line, but geez, maybe everyone was doing it. Technology has taken care of these fears, or ways to lessen them, but I still remember them, and they resurface when my internet connection is down.

The protagonist of TPEEP has no such chance to grow or reflect or blow off inconveniences. They're not calling about that charge on their credit card that still doesn't belong there, but they can afford it. They aren't even calling to switch to online bill payments or to activate a gift card. No, their needs are much more basic: to jump from despair to happiness as quickly as possible. Who knows if they are asking for permanent or just temporary happiness? It doesn't matter, really. It's pretty obvious early on they won't get it. They have no chance. And they don't even have the thrill of the chase from more traditional stories. And perhaps they don't really believe they really deserve happiness, even if they hope the quick jump is there. The end result? You-the-character can wait a few turns, but you will have no choice but to hang up eventually.

There's not much text in the game, but I don't think there needs to be. It probably doesn't want to force the point home, but we get it, nonetheless. The options on the phone are not for customer service but for different types of happiness. Soon they diverge into how to avoid sadness. Of course, there is nothing to be done. That's the point. And I found it much more effective than more visceral tales of depression. You half get your hopes up, because you know not to get them all the way up, but all the same, it's still too much. It's like trying to get your money back from a casino. TPEEP has no sound, but I can still a fake-cheery voice rattling off the options. You know that it's blowing you off, and it's ostensibly speaking clearly and slowly so you understand things, but really it's just so that people will get bored and hang up, so the company has to hire fewer operators.

This is in the name of company profits. When the character calls the happiness conglomerate, well, you'd expect happy people would want others to be happy. Maybe that is true. Maybe the people who seem happy are as clueless as those who know they aren't. Maybe they're just saying they're happy to fool themselves and have nothing to say beyond "turn that frown upside-down."

Ironically, this lack of getting anywhere close to happiness in the entry provided me with a certain amount of happiness, reminding me how I'd at least avoided hitting some pitfalls repeatedly. I remembered the times I found happiness when I failed to get excitement, as well as good replies I discovered to bossy older people telling me "You can't be happy all the time, deal with it." (Protip: it's okay to be sick of barriers to happiness thrown in your way arbitrarily.) I suppose I wanted some agency to be able to deal with a big pitfall. Here the narrator has none.

A word about the interface: at first it annoyed me. You click on a verb at the bottom, and several nouns change color. You can drag and drop each verb over them. This was awkward for me at first and I felt, cynically, I'm glad this entry is short, or I would make it short. The repetition even after a few times was exhausting (part of that was the hour I played through) but then when you no longer had a choice, it felt worse. But then I got used to it after playing a few other Texture games, and on my phone and not just my desktop, which made me happy in a way that hammering away at one single Texture entry could not.

Entries like this remind me of the old Yiddish joke "Waiter! Such lousy food!" / "Yes, and such small portions!" which can be hard to pull off without, well, actually annoying the reader/player. Not that TPEEP is lousy, but it's about lousiness, and balancing that feeling or joke or whatever ("I give up" feelings without making the player give up) is tricky. But I think it works here. Though it does feel like the cleverness of being able to drop a verb over more than one noun wasn't used to its fullest, and one of the main mechanics is, after a few times, removing wait/give up choices for giving up.

TPEEP gave me a lot to think about for an allegedly short game. I'm comfortable in that wheelhouse, not needing a whole lot of physical details and feeling okay stepping away from something to come back to it. In this case, I stepped away from TPEEP and got some personal insights in the meantime. It felt, in a way, like I was sticking it to TPEEP's unresponsive in-game automated phone support, or phone support from my past, whether it sent me in a circle or cut me off outright. And in this case, I was amused that a game ostensibly about wasting a chunk of 15 minutes for me-the-character felt like just the opposite for me-the-player.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Touchtone gloom, January 4, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).

This is the last of the Texture games in the Comp, and I have to say, up until now part of me has been playing these games thinking to myself “wouldn’t this have worked better in Twine instead?” the whole time. I’m hopefully not too narrow-minded about platforms, but much of the time, I feel like the games haven’t done much with the unique aspects of Texture – like exploiting the built in “verb”/”noun” functionality the interface enables, instead of just allowing one or two choices per passage that would work better as simple Twine-style links – while suffering from the somewhat awkward way the drag-and-drop thing works on a touchscreen, or the way the lack of a scrolling feature means text shrinks as passages get longer. Finally, though, here’s one that takes advantages of the affordances!

The whole of To Persist/Exist/Endure, Press 1 is played via a telephone interface, as a depressed protagonist navigates an interminable, hostile phone tree in search of a flicker of hope. This is another of those short games that eschews plot or characters in order to focus on presenting an allegory for what it’s like to experience a mental health challenge – like Nose Bleed, which I reviewed earlier – and I think this one works. For one thing, the slight irritation of trying to drag the “press” button onto the small numbers representing the different options fits the mood of frustration to a T, and the juxtaposition of these “press” options with the constantly-available hang-up option reflects the omnipresent temptation to just stop trying in the face of so many barriers.

Your exploration of the various options turns up surprises, too, so while the game is basically one-note, it doesn’t feel monotonous. You have an option to switch languages to Polish, for example, which rewrites many of the possible choices into that consonant-heavy language; similarly, the organization you’re on hold with is the Agency of Neverending Happiness and Clearing Out Monsters From Under Your Bed, and fruitlessly attempting to chase down information related to the second part of that mandate was entertaining. You can try to speak with an operator – but of course no one ever answers, you’re just stuck listening to the same annoying musical-hold tune over and over, until it starts to drive you mad. Or you can leave a voicemail, but the system never seems to understand your message.

These are all about how hard it is to escape from depression, of course: you try to reach out, but it feels like there’s nobody there for you, or they’re talking a foreign language. And if you do get someone to listen, you can’t explain yourself in a way that will make them understand (plus, despite how it might sometimes feel, you can’t find a monster to blame; it’s just you, and your broken brain-chemistry). The allegory isn’t especially subtle, but each bit of the phone tree is fleet enough not to outstay its welcome, and none of them are trying too hard to be coy, so overall it worked for me.

What worked less well was the endings – or basically ending, since in all of them the protagonist finally has to hang up, defeated, reflecting that despite all their efforts “everything is the same as it was. And everything is as sad as it’s always been.” Having there be no escape or positive solution is a valid, albeit downbeat choice, but since the game is entirely focused on the phone call and doesn’t set up the protagonist’s negative feelings outside of having to deal with the frustrating stuff they’re hearing on the line, I experienced a mismatch between their feelings and my own – hanging up felt like a relief to me since I didn’t have any context for the baseline unpleasant existence the protagonist must be living.

I think the game would have been stronger if it had laid more of this groundwork, but at the same time, it might have diluted the purity of the concept. Anyway if the worst thing I can say of a game that takes five or ten minutes to play is that while what it did was good, I wanted it to do some additional stuff too, well, that probably means it’s a success, even if there’s space for deeper explorations of the premise.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
To Persist/Exist/Endure/Give Up, November 12, 2022
by Ifaddict
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

A part of the game description goes: Agency Of Neverending Happiness and Clearing Out Monsters From Under Your Bed! We offer assistance in all matters related to your well-being and any supernatural troubles you might have." and it is certainly right if it means neverending happiness for its employees and neverending annoyance and frustration for the caller.

It starts off with a cheerful operator seemingly helpful and a number menu shows up but no matter what number you "press" it will ultimately be useless. It drives you and the main character nuts if you choose to wait and wait and wait.It doesn't matter how much you endure, in the end you will always end up either throwing the phone, breaking it or hanging up. Believe me, persisting and enduring is the way how you lose the game against that operator.

It's a short funny game with undertone of dread, anxiousness and creepiness, after all it is not a horror game for nothing. I'd say give it a try to satisfy your curiosity if you want to, but personally I'm not going to go through the same experience again (not for a while at least)

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To Persist/Exist/Endure, Press 1 on IFDB


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Outstanding Surreal Game of 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best surreal game of 2022. Voting is anonymous and open only to IFDB...

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