A truly fulfilling experience with a video game

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, there’s been a lot of things on my mind – some of which I’ll probably talk about later in a large, many topiced, post.  But this evening I want to talk about an online game I discovered during the day – Alter Ego.

Alter Ego is a computer game that Activision released in 1989 which give the player complete control over the decisions and life choices of an imaginary character (their alter ego, in a sense). It was developed by Peter Favaro, who had previously completed a PH.D in Psychology (in addition to learning programming and game design. While it was fairly successful, didn’t end up starting anything major in any sense of the word.

The way I found it was quite interesting. I’m a regular visitor to a gaming magazine called The Escapist, and one of the articles pointed to this game as an outstanding example of how morality should work in video games (morality in games being the topic of this week’s issue). With both morality and video games being particular interests of mine, I decided to look Alter Ego up on wikipedia, and found that they had a link to an online port that someone had written for the game. So I started playing, and ended up guiding the character of my story through life, from birth, to childhood, to high school, and into adulthood, and eventually through their declining years and towards their death. During this time he got into fights, had a wonderful relationship with his family, got through high school, started a family and got a job, had two kids, went to uni (late in life), got fired, got a better (well, at least better paying) job,  saw his kids grow up and get married, slowly and surely start wearing down, retired, and lived a full life until his sudden passing during his sleep. All through this there were wonderful tidbits of psychological advice, informing me that the choices that I made for the character were healthy, and why they were healthy, or whether the game thought I should have had a bit of a deeper think about a particular problem that the game posed (such as whether I should have pushed my character to confront his daughter about coming home late – and smelling of alcohol – immediately after she walked through the door, rather than have my character wait until the morning).

The funny thing about this game is that everything is text-based, the only images are in the menus where you pick what life experience you’re going to have next, and the only available game-play is to select what kind of response you will have to the varying (and sometimes very funny) events that life throws at your character, yet this game is one of the most engaging games I have ever played, and the act of bringing my character to the conclusion of a long and (mostly) happy life was, personally, more fulfilling than saving the universe and defeating the forces of evil a million times.

So try it out, I only managed to have one play-through today, and I was being fairly cautious with the game, but I’m interested to see how many different endings there are, and whether I can find a character who matches my personality a bit more. The link to the game is here. Have a go, it’s not complicated to learn, but it requires a lot of thought. Warning: this game has very heavy thematic elements, (due entirely to the subject matter that it discusses), and can be thought of to be fairly adult-oriented. While the game generally throws up a warning when a random event is sexual in nature (and gives the option to back out), I would recommend that parents should definitely look over the game before they let their kids play it.

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