Capsule Review: Alter Ego

An ambitious text adventure that allows you to simulate an entire lifetime of experiences and choices. Start at birth, navigate through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age, and finally death. Along the way, choose what to do in a series of scenes - how will you react when the bully takes your toy on the playground? Decades later, how will you react when you find that the person you’re dating is married? Your decisions will have consequences that shape your personality and your future.

To enable the game’s incredible scope, it has some serious limitations. In short, it presents the author’s idea of the life of an ordinary American in 1986. You can choose to be male or female, but cannot otherwise choose to play as any marginalized or minority group - for example, your character will never experience racial discrimination and may only have heterosexual relationships. Additionally, your character passes a lifetime in an essentially static world with no political conflicts or changes in technology - and one which is now a few decades out of date. On top of that, some of the vignettes can come across as overly judgmental or moralizing, rather than simply presenting the outcome of an event and letting the player decide how to feel about it.

In spite of these limitations, the game is an impressive achievement. It provides a safe space grounded in actual developmental psychology in which to experiment with being a different person and see what kind of life results. The experience can be downright theraputic, and when I first played it in high school it had multiple significant effects on how I thought about myself and the world.

I Stopped Playing When: I’ve played through at least three times over the years.

Docprof's Rating:

Five Stars: Favorite. This is one of my all-time favorite games that made a significant impact on me or that I've returned to time and again.

You can get it or learn more here.