Tryout: Meekin On Movies

@MeekinOnMovies On Gaming Ego Trippin’ “If I’m going to have a past, it might as well be multiple choice” – The Joker “The Killing Joke” I’ve been pretty sick of things lately. Most recently I’ve been working a marathon (for me) 60 hour work week marathon, where every day I get up at 6, drive to work, tool around for 8 hours, drive home, and barely have enough energy to get out of the car before taking a nap, waking up for a couple of hours, then going to bed and doing it all over again. During these relatively mundane and soul crushing portions of my life that are becoming more and more common with each passing year, I tend to seek out gaming experiences from my youth to dally around with in my fleeting spare time. Now, sure, my youth included all the gooey Nintendo goodness us gamers have come to expect. Mario and Link and Donkey Kong and I think I may have lost my virginity to Samus in a dream once, but these experiences are all mostly tests of skills and reflex, and even Link’s most devious puzzles mostly involve putzing around Hyrule until you figure out what specifically you’re supposed to do. I wanted something more, and always had. As a kid I think the thing I typed into google most was “Free Games”. Eventually after what I am sure were countless sites that loaded my computer with enough Malware to create a “Firefly” MMO, I stumbled across HOTU.ORG, or The Home Of The Underdogs. And this place was loaded with the games I never thought existed. If you’ve never played “Starflight” or “Colonization” or any of the games from the early days of PC gaming, boy you are missing out. it was on Home Of The Underdogs that I stumbled across probably my favorite non-game game of all time, 1986’s Alter Ego. For the uninformed, who is probably everyone, Alter Ego is a text based life simulator that’s based on actual psychological concepts and coded and designed by an actual doctor. With a degree and stuff, Peter J. Favaro . As a result it’s sort of a ‘choose your own adventure’ with a heart and some science behind it. It’s written deliciously, too, with a charm and rapier wit that reminds me of the kind of thing that made everyone so wet for the Harry Potter series. In fact I think it’s the only text based adventure game where a baby’s first words are spelled phonetically over the course of 4 screens. The game starts out by having you select male or female. Not quite ready to cross *that* particular final frontier yet, I selected male and answered a series of about 30 true or false questions pertaining to my personality. “Do you get the urge to touch signs that say wet paint” “I typically do as my parents say” and other questions you’d probably get if you were under psychiatric evaluation at a local prison. By this point in the game you’re either bored off your ass or thoroughly intrigued. If you’re a gamer who wants more “game” in their games, you’ll probably take one look at the white on black type, notice the lack of guns, military personnel, and online multiplayer, and hightail it for the closest FPS you can get your pudgy little hands on. This is not a game for the impatient, or even the logical. Instead, what Alter Ego offers is a series of loosely connected vignettes, which all add to your alter ego’s score and spheres. As you age, you gain points in various attributes: physical, social, aggressiveness, and a couple of more all go a long way to informing the way your character will act in a given situation. If you have a low social sphere and try out for a school play, the odds are you’ll be booed off the stage and whisked back to the chess club where you probably belong, dork. Similarly if you have a habit of disagreeing with your parents throughout your youth, and suddenly decide to empathize with them, they will be suspicious of your motives. Part of the problem with most life simulators such as ‘The Sims’, for example, is that if you play those games as they’re meant to be played, they pretty accurately reflect the utter monotony and quiet desperation that is day-to-day life. barely enough time in the day to eat, bathe, clean and work, let alone throw a party, learn to play guitar, buy a chemistry set or socially interact. And if we’re being honest here, in that game after I spent 45 minutes creating a character I wanted to look and act just like me, my first social interactions were met with the encouraging messages “Sue-ann thinks Paul is being awkward” and “Sue-ann is uncomfortable”. Depressing. Of course, I’m probably one of three people who attempted playing ‘The Sims’ game for keeps. Practically everyone else cheats at it, gives themselves the most money, the biggest house, maxes out their happiness, and generally scams the system to the point where really the game ought to be called “White Trash Wish Fulfillment: The Game”. Not that I’m any less guilty. I still remember the password for 50k simoleans. (It’s Rosebud.) Alter Ego avoids this by boiling life down to its essence: Social interactions, romantic interactions, and the various moments of truth that really define all our lives. it becomes an eye opening experience. Many a time I have played this game “as myself” answering questions honestly, only to find the moment when I acted against the type of person I am, blow up in my face. Especially since certain events can be fatal (for example in one game I stupidly approached a car offering free candy and was promptly raped and murdered), the effort required to play the game and succeed becomes its own reward. And, then, well, I was humming along in my little Alter Ego life, toiling away in school for Social Services because it was always an interest of mine, dating some chick named Cathy I didn’t really care too much about, when BAM, I won 500 thousand dollars and instantly stopped caring about the choices I would make, or the game in general. I had “rosebuded” without meaning too! Up until this point I was invested, eagerly pondering every possible outcome, attempting to be the best me I could be in the terms of the game. And at that point, I was pretty much me: Creative, a touch anti-social but overly sympathetic toward everyone, a “real character” as the game said. And now it didn’t matter anymore. But now, it seemed, none of that mattered, because I was rich, bitch. But now, as I finish up this article after nap, I am very curious to see what kind of person I would be if I had all the money in the world. Guess there’s only one way to find out. **