Have you heard of a game called Alter Ego? In the 1980's-90's it was an old text-based computer game where you'd "live" a seperate, entire life, through a series of randomized "episodes" from birth all the way to death. You never knew what was about to happen to your character, and it was possible to die at literally ANY point in the game. It was essentially The Sims before The Sims. Nowadays, it's been made into a web game you can play right in your browser. I used to have little profiles on the browser game myself, until I got bored with it. But then I started to miss the game a little, what with its quirky adult situations and the dark humour that some of the "episodes" contained. What I liked about it was that in each "episode" you never knew what was going to happen to you next, and since you could die at any point, it was almost a little scary. For me, things got a little too real when I decided to revisit the game.
I went back to the website that the game was on and decided to start a new game. I clicked through the usual intro of "What if you could live your life over again?" and all that, then played for a few hours until my Ego became a teenager. By that time things started to get quite uneasy, which was unusual because things usually didn't go wrong on the site itself. One of the episodes was a "PHYSICAL" episode, which dictated that either you'd get sick or break something, or you'd discover a chest hair, something like that. I clicked it out of curiousity, a little frightened, and I got a stupid 404 error.
Apparently the site was undergoing maintenence or something and I just happened to use a turn right when they brought the site down. I closed the tab and went about my usual business, then after giving a minute I went back to my game. My spot in the game was still saved, to my surprise. So I tried the same PHYSICAL episode again, another 404. Annoyed, I gave it a few more seconds and refreshed, and was flabbergasted when I saw it had kicked me back to the intro, before "you" are born. I thought that maybe I could retrace myself back to teenager if I played through again, but I was shocked to see this:
"What if you were never born?
What if you were alive but couldn't die?
What if you just never came to life at all?
I think someone killed you."
This was all very weird. I was so confused at all of this, talking about me not being born, telling me someone killed me? I thought for a minute that this may have been a prank that one of my code-savvy friends had snuck into my computer, but since I was playing on my internet browser, that couldn't be possible since he'd have to hack the site's servers for that to happen. Assuming the latter I clicked ahead. Several blank pages later I get back to the episode screen, and once again I played through until I got to teenager again. Everything's normal until I look for another PHYSICAL episode and click it. Then I see another unnecessary entry:
"You wake up feeling wonderful, but as you get out of bed you slip on your blanket and fall lopsided on the corner of your head, causing your neck to bend and snap. You feel your heart stop but you don't succumb. You are still alive."
That was it. There were no buttons to click or anything. The page refreshed itself and brought me back to the episode tree, with that same PHYSICAL episode now gone since I completed it. Everything else was normal, so I decided to keep playing until I got to Elderly stage. The randomizer must have pulled a Charlie Gordon because at least 3/4 of the Tree was FAMILY episodes, and the other half was PHYSICAL and EMOTIONAL. I decided to check out one of the FAMILY episodes. This happened to my Ego:
"You're riding in the car with your grandson, your daughter and son-in-law. They pull up to a regal-looking building, a church presumably, right beside it, a graveyard. Everyone gets out of the car except you, since you don't know what's going on. Your son-in-law taps on your window signalling you to unlock the door. He lets you out and pats you firmly on the back, walking with you to one of the graves. Everyone stands in front of the gravestone, smiling at you. Your grandson moves out from in front of the stone for you to see 'TY.' on the epitaph. The datestamp is completely blank. I think you know what this means."
Now, when you die in the game as the outcome of an Episode, the game will put "This Game Is Over" at the end of the turn. It never said that, anywhere. Another thing that puzzled me was that even though I saw all those episodes available, something made me want to play that particular episode. I don't know what, and at this rate I don't think I'll ever know. I wanted to check out the rest of the episodes but when I got back to the Episode Tree the Sunset episode was the only one there. This is the one that every player of Alter Ego dreads the most, because it's the end of your life in the game. I clicked it...
All I got was a cartoon picture of a smiling old man. He wasn't in any particular place, just a white background. He wore all black, possibly a funeral outfit. Then the picture is suddenly animated slightly, to show the old man now has an indifferent expression on his face. His expression turns to a frown, and gets sadder and sadder. The animation now shows that he's standing in front of a casket, still frowning. It then shows a slideshow of images of him walking through town, and people are scowling at him, spitting at him, even flipping the bird at him and throwing rocks. Every image got sadder as the old man took more abuse. Finally, a final image on the animation's slideshow depicts the old man, still wearing the same black outfit, standing on a chair, a noose around his neck tied to the ceiling. There's a note he left on the vanity in front of the casket, but it's scaggly so I can't read it. The old man kicks the chair over, so that he falls but the noose on his neck holds him. He struggles with himself as he turns purple, then stops and goes limp as his body shuts down.
Through all of this there is melancholy, drony, 16-bit-era sounding music playing a disheartening tune, very quiet through my PC speakers. The animation then fades to show that the old man is now actually in his bed. He gets out of bed to really try this, but when he struggles, he looks puzzled as nothing happens. He undoes everything to sit on his bed, now looking surprised. The animation fades to black. I click the Continue button that appears at the top of the web page, disturbed by all of this. I got a straightforward message:
"Death does not await those with impure hearts."
The browser closed itself out. To my surprise, the old man is now seen on my desktop, holding up a small open notebook. It says "You, yes you, will not know rest as long as your heart is impure."
Oh God....I have to change....I have to make myself a better person...