I was playing Alter Ego last night during an unintentionally extended break from studying. It’s a text-based RPG (role-playing game), somewhat similar to those Choose-Your-Adventure books, where they tell you to turn to page X if you want to do this, turn to page Y if you want to do that, except you’re not playing a predetermined character by the author. You’re playing yourself.
Instead of earning gold to buy swords which can hack up a Level 150 monster, Alter Ego takes you through the various stages of normal, unspectacular, human life — infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, etc. — and in each stage, you have a wide, wide range of possible choices, and your decisions will ultimately impact your future. In this way, the game achieves its goal to provide a place to imagine what your life would be like if only you did X or were more like Y.
The one qualm I have about Alter Ego is that they just don’t allow you enough turns per stage. This means that you don’t get to experience all the possible scenarios of each stage per run of the game, and I feel that’s just not enough to complete what you’re supposed to complete in each stage of life. For example, I was finally able to get through all the “college experiences” I needed to graduate…by the time I was in the OLD ADULTHOOD stage. >.> Would I even need a college degree by that point?
That the number of turns is limited is probably why the game is so short. I did not want to die yet (“there’s still so much I haven’t done!”), but there was no other choice: My time was up. They congratulated me on my death. I closed the browser window with the feeling that life is really transient. Did I not just run through a person’s entire life in a couple of hours? I was born, I grew up, I grew old, I died. Everything passes…so quickly. And it makes you think how fast real life passes you by too; in my case, I’m almost finished with another year of university! How can that be possible? I haven’t done that much yet!
Reflections aside, Alter Ego is a refreshing take on a fantasy-dominated game genre. Sure, there’s no images, but a game that is so personal in nature would not work with petty graphic representations. Try it — I’m sure you’ll like it. See what your life could turn out like if you make the same choices as you do in reality now, or become the exact opposite of who you are now…and see if your life turns out better (or worse). Perhaps you’ll walk away with some interesting reflections on life that may help you in reality.