Alter Ego is a difficult game to classify. In fact, it can be argued that Alter Ego is not really a game but a questionnaire masquerading as a game. You live an alternate life by answering a series of questions, making the kinds of decisions you might have to in real life. But, there's no score, no winner, and no way to rate how well you're "playing" the game.
Created by a psychologist in 1984 after interviewing hundreds of men and women about their life experiences, Alter Ego represents the ideas and sensibilities of 1984 America as interpreted by a panel of psychologists. The game is constantly evaluating your decisions, offering comments, and, occasionally, criticizing your life choices.
To the game's detriment, it's likely that the evaluations reflect choices of the upper middle class as opposed to the population in general. After hundreds of interviews, the data was collated and rendered into game material by psychologists who are typical middle or upper middle class in terms of lifestyle. It's probable that some of the lifestyle choices and sensibilities of these psychologists influenced the game's "unbiased" judgments.
Many of the choices and results are remarkably open-minded but some of them do show signs of preference toward a middle or upper middle class background. If you were raised with sensibilities similar to those found in Alter Ego, you're not likely to find many problems with conclusions in the game. On the other hand, gamers with more divergent backgrounds and upbringings will find much to disagree with in the game.
Alter Ego's light replay value is also problematic. In theory the game should have great replay value, as you can live countless alternate lives by answering the questions differently. In practice, though, the game doesn't have a very extensive question list, thus, when you replay the game for the first time, you quickly find yourself dealing with the same set of questions and life events as before.
You can answer the questions differently to see the alternate responses but, since most of the questions have two or three choices at most, maximum replay value for the game is basically four times. Three replays will allow you to see all the different responses and a fourth is warranted just to make sure you didn't miss anything. After that, you've literally seen everything the game has to offer.
Because of the question and answer style of game play, the majority of the game's content is presented in textual question and answer format. You choose question categories by selecting from several not particularly pleasant looking but quite functional icons. The text itself is large and easy to read so you'll suffer little eyestrain, if any, after playing several hours of Alter Ego.
But, while the text is easy on the eyes, the control scheme could have used some more thought. For example, to select a response you press the spacebar, but to move your pointer to the response you must use the arrow keys. This method forces you either to use both hands for interaction with the game or awkwardly spread one hand so it can trigger both the arrow keys and spacebar without too much movement. A better solution would be to use the Enter key to select, as it's less of a stretch from the arrow keys.
Many of the game's design drawbacks can be overlooked due to the fact that it's only a game meant for recreation and is not intended as a serious psychological evaluation tool. You should approach the game with an open mind and experience it without imposing your own value judgments on the value judgments it makes on you and your in-game lifestyle choices.
If you can do that, you'll find Alter Ego to be one of the most interesting and innovative questionnaires you'll ever complete -- and, quite possibly, one of the most memorable games you will ever come across.
Graphics: Functional graphics and large, easy-to-read text.
Sound: Basic PC-speaker beeping sounds.
Enjoyment: Alter Ego has many interesting and surprising things to say about the choices you make through your alternate life.
Replay Value: The limited question database gives the game limited replay value.
Alter Ego is a "life simulator" that presents you with a series of life experiences that take you from infancy through old age. You can live out your own life, or the life of someone else, possibly someone you wish you could be. You can live out fantasies without risk, relive your childhood, or maybe see the world from your kids'/parents'/spouse's eyes.
The life situations you encounter have the ability to change or become eliminated based on previous decisions you make. While the life you live is a fantasy, the actions you take have very real and thought-provoking responses.
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