The number of choices one makes every day is staggering. No one really thinks about every choice they make. To do so would take too much effort, and some choices aren’t worth consciously thinking about. But life is filled with choices, consciously made or not, and everyone must live with their consequences. What seems like an unimportant decision may have far-reaching implications. What Alter Ego presents are choices.
Alter Ego is a text-based life simulator for the web browser. The pages are black and the text is white, so playing is easy on the eyes. Without accompanying images, the player can project any life they choose on the concise descriptions. You begin as a baby and play through seven potential life stages ending in death, though it is possible to die in any stage, including infancy. The main menu presents slightly abstract square images, and these represent life choices. Each choice is put into five categories: intellectual, social, physical, emotional, family, and later, vocational. Once you’ve made a choice, it disappears from the menu. Just like reality, there are no redos. The layout of the choices implies a temporal continuity, but you are free to begin the choices in any order you wish, and none of the scenarios described are interrelated. As you progress through each life stage, the number of choices in each category changes. In the adolescent stage, a great majority of the choices fall under the social category. Just like real adolescence, your Alter Ego’s social personality develops most at this life stage.
When you’ve made a choice, the outcome affects your stats, viewable under the bar graph icon at the top of the page. Each choice affects its own category stat (ex: a choice in the physical category increases or decreases your Physical stat), and also affects more nuanced stats like “thoughtfulness” and “confidence.” It’s a bit tricky to tell how to specifically increase a particular stat, but there’s no incentive to excel in one area. You simply live your life.
For instance, one scenario in the childhood phase describes you being the only witness to a spitballer. You can always select your mood, here either “angry,” “anxious,” or “mixed feelings,” and you can make the crucial choice: “keep quiet” or “raise your hand.” I chose “mixed feelings” and “raise your hand,” knowing that I would probably be praised by the victimized teacher but jeered by my classmates. The result screen doesn’t tell me exactly what my classmates’s reaction was, but I am told that my decision reflected my desire to put my concern for others and unjust punishment over my concern of doing something socially acceptable. Alter Ego spells out the social implications of the player’s actions. Players that may have never considered the consequences of such everyday choices are forced to read them out. You may choose to play Alter Ego however you wish, and if you make choices based on what you would do in the same situation, you stand to learn a great deal about yourself.