Alter Ego

Alter Ego was originally written by Peter J. Favaro, Ph.D. It was published in 1986 for the Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Apple II, and Macintosh. The current edition of the Alter Ego game is a production of Choose Multiple LLC.

"Alter Ego" is Copyright 1986 Peter J. Favaro. All rights reserved.

Preserving Alter Ego

The current edition includes an updated interface and fixes bugs in the original version of the game, but the content of the game (the writing) hasn't changed from the original 1986 version of the game.

We've decided not to attempt to update the content of Alter Ego. Instead, we're preserving it as an artifact of electronic gaming history. Here's why.

The Life of an "Ordinary" American in 1986

Alter Ego tells the story of the life of an "ordinary" American, as Dr. Favaro envisioned it in 1986. It takes on significant assumptions about what the life of an ordinary American in 1986 would be like.

For example, in this game, no one discriminates against you on the basis of your ethnic background or the color of your skin.

On this basis, many readers have assumed (sometimes unconsciously) that the life you lead in Alter Ego is the life of a white American. The game never explicitly describes the color of your skin, but the life of an ordinary black woman in 1986 would have included a significant amount of discrimination, and some forms of that discrimination would be different from the discrimination a black man would have experienced.

Alter Ego doesn't let you live the life of just anyone; you only have the option to live as someone who doesn't experience racial discrimination.

By only offering the player a chance to play as an "ordinary" American, the game implicitly assumes that you're like the majority of Americans, that you are not yourself a minority in any way.

Same-Sex Relationships in 1986

Adding support for same-sex dating and same-sex marriage could be easy: the game could just offer you a choice of genders when you use the dating icon.

But in 1986, that's not what same-sex dating was really like in America. Same-sex marriage was illegal in every state, and gay/lesbian couples experienced discrimination from many groups, sometimes even from their own families.

Telling the life story of a gay man in 1986 means telling the story of coming out of the closet, prejudiced employers, encounters with parents, and so on. Some of those moments would be quite different when playing as a lesbian, and the life of bisexual characters would be different yet again.

Neverending 1986

The entire game of Alter Ego is set in 1986, despite the fact that you live eighty years or more. Nothing of significance happens in America over the course of your lifetime.

There is no history and no political conflict in Alter Ego. No technology ever develops in this game, and you are never surprised or confused by new technology.

Unsurprisingly, Alter Ego doesn't offer you the option to become a politician, an inventor, or soldier.

How could you become a politician in a world where there are no politics? How could you become a famous inventor when nothing can be invented? How can you serve in the military in a world without war?

Why Don't You Rewrite Alter Ego?

Alter Ego originally shipped two substantially different versions of the game: a "male" version and a "female" version. They shipped in two separately purchasable boxes, for $35 each. ($35 in 1986 is worth more than twice that in today's dollars.)

"Updating" Alter Ego, including its implicit assumptions about race, sex, gender, and history, would mean rewriting the whole game yet again. Indeed, it would require not just one rewrite, but dozens, hundreds, thousands.

Alter Ego isn't the story of a black trans woman. If someone wrote a text-based life-simulation game about a black trans woman, that story wouldn't be Alter Ego. (I hope it would be something better.)

Choice of Games LLC is a company dedicated to producing high-quality, text-based, multiple-choice games. They've developed a simple scripting language for writing text-based games, ChoiceScript. Writing games in ChoiceScript is easy and fun, even for writers with no programming experience. If you write a game in ChoiceScript, they can publish it for you on their website and on other platforms, giving you a share of the revenue.

Many of their games allow you to choose a gender (including a non-binary gender) and sexual orientation. You can be a professional criminal, a rock star, a dragon, or use your superpowers to save the world.

Alter Ego is an important piece of electronic gaming history. It may have been the first novel-length text-based multiple-choice life simulation, but it isn't the last.

If you'd like to write another game in this style, we invite you to do so using ChoiceScript.

Dan Fabulich
Choose Multiple LLC

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