Alter Ego


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Rating: 4.7/5 (149 votes)
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DoraAlter EgoLife... don't talk to me about life. Instead, let me talk to you about life... yours, as a matter of fact. Not the life you have right now, but the one you could have had. Have you ever really stopped to think about the choices you've made, and why you made them? Well, you just might after giving this a try. Alter Ego is a text-based rpg-like life simulation, originally published way back in 1986 for some very old computers, and now available to play online for free. Please note that to save your progress, you need to sign in with a Google account.

Play is simple. The game takes you through seven stages of life, beginning with infancy, and progressing to the next once you've had a certain number of experiences. Rather than detailing every single thing that happens to you (nobody wants to know how many hours you really spent updating the Transformers Wikipedia), you're presented with a branching tree of icons, each representing a different experience; social, physical, emotional, family, and, later, vocational. Clicking on one presents you with an opportunity; opportunities detail formative events in your life, and could be anything from your first kiss to time spent with a family member. You're given a choice of how you feel about what's happening, and how you'll react to it; simply choose a feeling and an action, and click "next". You'll be presented with a bit of text that details what the outcome was, and that will effect your statistics... everything from aspects of your personality, to your life, to your intellect, and so forth.

There's an entire page given over to your various statistics (accessed by clicking the graph icon), but trying to micro-manage them can be incredibly frustrating. For the best, most "realistic" experience, only spare your statistics a glance every once in a while and instead just concentrate on experiencing the game. After all, most of us don't come with a set of numbers that tells us when we're low on gentleness. (My numbers are always in the gutter. Er... pretend I'm talking about the game.) It's important to realise that there is no real "right" choice to make in any given situation. Just beware of dangerous risks; it is possible for you to die or become seriously injured.

Alter EgoAnalysis: Although it was originally featured in a 2007 Link Dump Friday article, Alter Ego came to my attention recently after some fine folks (i.e, you dudes) plopped it into our submission box again. Despite having been written originally in 1986, Alter Ego is vague enough in its setting that it still manages to feel relevant. The narrative focuses mostly on human elements and examining our actions; why we do the things we do, and what impact those things have on us. (Whether we realise it or not.) It can make for some surprisingly introspective moments. The biggest problem for some players is that the game's age means it isn't necessarily going to be particularly "modern" in its thinking; you will not, for example, find any option to engage in a same-sex relationship, which is probably going to be disappointing for some players.

There's also an issue with the quality of writing, in that it can feel a little erratic. Sometimes it's extremely funny (particularly in early infancy). Others? Not so much. It can also be difficult to really bring yourself to care about the supporting cast; admittedly the game seems to be trying to get you to project your own family and friends onto the blank slates in the narrative, which is doable, but it does make it hard to find yourself invested in your fake significant other, should you choose to have one. Oh, Fake Husband... I love so much about you. The way you never pop up in any scenarios unless I click on your icon. The way you have no personality at all. The way I immediately forgot your name... but not the time you tried to snooker me into paying for dinner all the time we were dating.

For those of you looking for something slow to sink into and play for a good long while, Alter Ego offers a massive amount of replayability. You can't experience everything in a single lifetime, and you'll find that taking different approaches and attitudes to events will yield drastically different results. While for me the gameplay was more entertaining than enlightening, what I can say is that the game made me think a little. Less about the sort of life I might have had were I to have gone right instead of left one morning, but instead about my own motivations, and why I do and say the things I do. And here I always thought it was just 'cause I was rad. Huh. There go all my precious self illusions.

Play Alter Ego

Thanks to Pakman5500, Jessica and Megaera for sending this one in!

84 Comments

Black Drazon Author Profile Page November 30, 2010 7:00 PM

I got a lot of issues with how this game plays out some times (without going into them, let's just say that I once ran a character who the text implied was constantly miserable from teenhood on, but nevertheless had an-inch-from-perfect stat line both when I checked at the start of adulthood and again at death) but that doesn't stop it from being completely addictive from start to finish.

I once showed it to a friend and we didn't do anything for about an hour and a half but laugh at the odd joke we were collectively reading, until he accidentally managed to land in one of the few Death scenarios. Definitely worth a look, no matter what other people (me) think of it.

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This is intriguing and a LOT better than any text-based life simulation game I've ever seen. 5/5

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Apparently you can't do everything in each life stage. I lost out on several from infancy.

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Played this a while back and I still love it, though...it seems to have gotten a lot tougher for some reason.

For instance, I managed to sell a hit snack food to some fast food restaurant, and my Thoughtless spending per turn changed from around 6000 to 58073...and my income is only 8000. How am I supposed to not become poor now?

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hikari no sakura Author Profile Page November 30, 2010 9:46 PM

Oh god I remember playing this one on snes!

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Whatever, Alter Ego! I loved brussels sprouts when I was a kid. I didn't have to be "obedient" to eat them. I liked them!

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I was frustrated by the exclusion of queer options. The illusion was instantly and jarringly broken when I was being forced to have a crush on a guy. I didn't feel involved in the game anymore. To be honest, I felt a little nauseated. It was like I was holding her hand when suddenly we were ripped apart by a great chasm in the earth.

It may seem like an over-reaction, but I was already imagining her future with a lovely wife and kids when that future became lost to me forever.

Please edit the article to warn people that there is no sexuality choice.

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Karen:

"The biggest problem for some players is that the game's age means it isn't necessarily going to be particularly "modern" in its thinking; you will not, for example, find any option to engage in a same-sex relationship, which is probably going to be disappointing for some players."

It's already in the article c:

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Aw... I was the cutest charming little boy but then I tried to run away from a stranger in a van and he... killed me? Aaaaaaand that's how I died. -_- (wtf)

It's an okay game, though.

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@Karen: the review *does* say "The biggest problem for some players is that the game's age means it isn't necessarily going to be particularly "modern" in its thinking; you will not, for example, find any option to engage in a same-sex relationship, which is probably going to be disappointing for some players."

Yeah... it's frustrating but not every game developer will think of that option, even today. :P

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Kittymaverick Author Profile Page December 1, 2010 2:25 AM

Hm...not sure whether I was simply having a case of bad luck or what, but it seems so much harder to be able to enter a relationship and get married now!

But it still has its merits of being entertaining for sure...I've wasted quite a lot of time on it when I really shouldn't. XD

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Oh, I remember being engrossed in this game a very long time ago. I don't remember if I ever finished it, though I am pretty sure I played up to marriage.

Re: Homosexuality not being in the game -
This is covered at the very beginning of the wishlist page: http://www.playalterego.com/wishlist.html

So it's not like they haven't thought about it, or no one else has ever brought this topic up in the past.

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Ha, that was fun.
And I, uh, died playing softball. Was not expecting that.

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Pseudonymph Author Profile Page December 1, 2010 7:13 AM

At one point a tear came to my eye. I can think of few higher recommendations. There were short moments of boredom or annoyance but they passed quickly and it kept things unexpected. I highly recommend.

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Ryunosuke December 1, 2010 8:37 AM

In one physical event, I get myself burned. In another, I nearly get killed by a kidnapper. It's not like I even chose the reckless responses...is the game trying to teach me that I should avoid these?

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Alright! I just purchased a A SUPER-POWERFUL 512K COMPUTER WITH 10 MEGABYTE HARD DISK ($3499)! I didn't realize this game was so old. XD

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Yeah my main problem with this was that I couldn't be in a same-sex relationship. Otherwise, I was really sucked in.

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This… was profoundly depressing. While my character died the best way imaginable, peacefully of old age (had a 100 physical!), it just made me think that, no matter what we do, no matter what we accomplish and experience, life speeds by as quickly as the clicks of a DHTML game and we face the utter end that is death. After my alter ego's death, I felt so much regret, that there was so much more I wish I could have done. Each life stage came so quickly, before I was ready to move on. And if I felt that in the game, I can only imagine what I will feel in life.

Gaah, what am I doing, filling the hours of the my youth with online games? Do I really flit away the hours of the day to fill in idle time as I rationalize, or am I trying desperately to forget the inevitability of death? In the process, do I not just end up killing the precious time I have before death?

…in another matter, does anybody know how to become a researcher?? I really wanted to make my awesome bachelorette into a scientist. She got a degree in natural sciences, had 100 intelligence (confidence and social were also usually at or near max), but it always told me to come back when I had more "life experience." Maybe I needed more creativity? Creativity was only a 34 or so. Or is one of the personality stats the key?

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I remember playing that version of Alter Ego years and years ago and I was so pleased to see this review. I'd hoped that they'd updated the game. No such luck. It's one of those little gems that are out there.

The wishlist has been there ever since I can remember, at least 5 years now. I can't see it getting done unless someone volunteers to do all the work on the rewrite.

And in favour of the Choice of games, all of them contain same-sex elements, including Choice of Dragon as well. (Although admittedly in Choice of Dragon the romance part is such a tiny, tiny part, I did like it didn't take gender for granted.)

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Anonymous December 1, 2010 2:15 PM

I was kidnapped and killed as a child! I was legitimately shocked!

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Black Drazon Author Profile Page December 1, 2010 2:35 PM

@Raz: As it happens, I've been trying to work out an "tag" system for text-based games (I tend to make text prototypes of my stuff) so that I'll be able to support multiple points of view, playable genders and, if the need arises for any reason whatsoever, sexualities, and it is a pain in the behind. So I can see why the creator keeps putting it off (reworking something from finished would be worse by far), and had assumed that was why there had been no updates for five or so years. But the iPhone version just makes me indignant, given the sensitive circumstances discussed above. It's like he/she/they just doesn't care.

Now if the port was done by volunteers, I apologize, though I'd still prefer they fix that ugly crop of wrinkles before they try to move the game to a wider audience.

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I was having fun till' I got kidnapped and beaten to death.
I didn't know I was that close to his car...

._.

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Haha, I died as a old guy on a playing field, at least I had a happy life. Lol

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merchantfan December 1, 2010 5:58 PM

Fun for a while, but as mentioned some serious problems: I couldn't turn my little girl into a little lesbian, the stupid prejudice against brussel sprouts, which can be DELICIOUS, and most disturbingly the game's attitude towards mental illness. What was the suicidal option even there for? I clicked it, asked to see a therapist, it told me that wouldn't work and if I'd really wanted to kill myself no one could stop me, then killed me. Optimistic. The only options are lack of will and death.

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Played through it some more...apparently, how much money you have decides how much you lose per turn...which I find odd. Every time I get more money than usual, I don't all of a sudden start spending more.

Also, it often says that I'm grumpy, irritable, and other such stuff, but in the next sentence, it says I'm calm and collected...makes no sense.

Finally, are you supposed to not have a relationship in this with anyone? I've tried three times now, and all three times I've ended up unattached. The last two were going fine, then I'm thrown a curveball and end up with nothing.

Still, despite the flaws, it's still a good game...and I still find myself addicted to it for some reason.

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crimsonthread Author Profile Page December 1, 2010 8:42 PM

:( Over Quota
This Google App Engine application is temporarily over its serving quota. Please try again later.

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It's over quota for me too.
This looks so interesting, and I'd really like to give it a try.

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Argh who cares about quota! D:

I remember playing this, AKA downloading it a couple of years ago. It was fun but I always decided to leave before adulthood.

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@Reece

Where can you download it? Is it the same?

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Procrastinateher December 2, 2010 12:46 AM

Yeah, there are some issues (and apparently I enjoy choosing conflicting combinations in scenarios with two or more sets of choices) but I enjoyed playing this. The first time through I randomly collapse and die whilst walking to the shops.

It took me a bit to realise how to gain a relationship, employment etc, but now I've got it figured out and would like to play again... well, I think us JIGers have put it over capacity :(

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I can't play it... this error message shows up:

Over Quota

This Google App Engine application is temporarily over its serving quota. Please try again later.

What do I do? I'm using Chrome, but IE won't work either...

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Yeah, still over quota for me too :(

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Yeah, looks like JiG broke the game. I'm playing it right now and it's reeeealy slow. Great game though.

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Maxy, Baby December 2, 2010 11:30 AM

D'awwww, my dad died as an alcoholic and my mom died from cancer before I even graduated from college. And I never came out of the closet. =/

Still a great game!

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I spent a whole life stage in college, with my wife, and on a job! Also, I think the game should be more rewarding to those who get the "sunset" ending. Al I got was a flashback through my memories forever. Oh well. There could always be an option for religious orientation (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.) at some point, both for this point and to influence the game.

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This game made me baww so hard! D:

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I've played this game through a few times, but I can never get rich! Has anyone else figured out how to make serious bank in this game?

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sunnylauren Author Profile Page December 3, 2010 12:34 PM

First time through, I was depressed as a teen and tried drugs and alcohol, consequently dying of liver failure. Second time through was a string of failed relationships because I was too untrustworthy to marry.

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I did enjoy this game, but the one thing I noticed during playing was stereotypes that specifically the male character fitted into; he seemed to be sporty and "a typical male" as some may describe it, despite my continued discouragement of these characteristics. For example, toward the end of my character's life he got the chance to pinch an attractive lady's bottom, despite the fact he has not been in any proper relationships and I had pretty much steered him away from women altogether :/

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Founded1992 December 3, 2010 2:01 PM

"Sorry, did i say something wrong?" said Marvin, dragging himself on regardless. "Pardon me for breathing, which I never do anyway so I don't know why I bother to say it, oh God, I'm so depressed. Here's another of those self-satisfied doors. Life! Don't talk to me about life."
"No one every mentioned it,"muttered Arthur irritably.

It's from "Guide to the Galaxy". love that book btw.

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sunnylauren Author Profile Page December 3, 2010 2:24 PM

Third time through I was a guy. I met my wife in high school and never cheated on her. I was very trustworthy and had a great life :).

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Founded1992 December 3, 2010 5:19 PM

1st time through, i was mister"goody two-shoes". i was honest my life,married kimberly, and died a sunset death. GREAT GAME! worth playing any day.

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I was a goody two shoes untill a stranger pulled me into a car, tortured and killed me... great game =)

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Anonymous December 5, 2010 6:48 PM

gets boring after adolescence :P

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This is really fun and cool, but I didn't like how sometimes it told me the choices I made were wrong. It is a choose your OWN "adventure", not a choose the right answer that the game wants you to. 4.9/5

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JIGuest, this is really true 'cause life DOES get boring after adolescence :D

Also... YELL THE NAME OF THE WASHING MACHINE!!!

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Seems sweet, but i'm rather sweamish and the fetus at the beginning really threw me off. Me being picky, but yeah.

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This game, I found to be extremely fun. I became an entrepreneur, had well over $100,000 dollars, was very intelligent, fit, and social, and my adopted son, Michael, had married.

The only sad part was the end. I joined as the pitcher for the Senior Sluggers, and ended up dying in a softball accident. I didn't even really understand the message given to me before my death until it said "You have died." It felt like such a letdown...

...but it wasn't. I was then compelled to have a 20-minute-long discussion with my dad about the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, and our place in the universe. I rated this game a 3 too early. But now, I wish I could give it a 6, for helping me realize the truth on life.

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pyromaniac-yamyam January 22, 2011 1:15 AM

There's a lot of people saying they got killed in the car by stranger. It might seem weird but I WANT to get to that ending. Will someone tell me how plz?

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I didn't really like this one. No matter what you do, you either get a negative outcome or criticism for not being a "normal child", ex. not taking chances with things that could be fun but dangerous, such as "helping daddy iron his shirt."

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I got my character sent to juvie..........
it was AWESOME lol

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I ended up dying with lung cancer :O
So sudden.

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Akane1313 April 13, 2011 2:36 AM

Hmm. I can't help but feel like the views expressed here are pretty biased. I mean, i enjoyed a healthy dose of playing with legos and doing fun things when I was a kid, but the game insists that all I wanted to do was wear my mom's makeup and clothes. It has also come the conclusion (and happily at that) that I'm an atheist just because I asked my family some questions about whatever faith we are. =/ They also don't give me the choice of waiting until marriage to engage in the sort of acts I'd prefer to be married before doing. I feel less like it's supposed to be me with every assumption the game makes.

Also, it was irritating when I would make a choice and be told that it's not a choice i would make. Like when I chose to feel neutral and perform some action, I was told that it wasn't possible for me to feel that way and make that choice. Or they just didn't have an answer for it. It seems like they should have options for the combinations they allow you to pick. Who says I can't be mad about hand-me-downs but wear them anyway?

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Black Lynx fangirl April 14, 2011 12:29 AM

Uh... ~coughs~ I ran away from them full speed.... But my curiousity is over whelming... but I know better than to investigate myself... (if its bad, trying to explain to my parents what my little sis is talking about?.. No. Do not go there.)
How bad are the.. erm. Sexually explicit? two interactions during childhood... What do they contain... My over cynical nature is thinking of all sorts of horrible things. Someone fill in the blanks for me! No details are needed.. Just a summary... Sorry for the novel.

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Chaip100 June 13, 2011 11:30 PM

There needs to be more text life simulators like this. A more, modernized one.

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JIGuest15 July 25, 2011 11:34 AM

I actually think that the ending where you

die while walking to the store, surrounded by your community

is better than the sunset ending.

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For some strange, unknown reason, I have no actions left except the sunset ending, which I got last time and don't want to get again, I can't do anything with my current partner, and I have no clue how to get the old age ending!!!

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Urghhh, I ended up dying from a coronary heart surgery... But I was already in my last stage anyway -_-

Out of curiousity, does anyone know a place where I can see all the text outcomes? A lot of the text choices are very interesting, and I love to know what happens in some of the other choices.

@Karen
Well... The only mention of homosexuality I got in the game was when a female friend tried to consult me on coming out of a closet. But I guess considering how old this game is, it is actually kind of surprising xP

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Urghhh, I ended up dying from a coronary heart surgery... But I was already in my last stage anyway -_-

Out of curiousity, does anyone know a place where I can see all the text outcomes? A lot of the text choices are very interesting, and I love to know what happens in some of the other choices.

@Karen
Well... The only mention of homosexuality I got in the game was when a female friend tried to consult me on coming out of a closet. But I guess considering how old this game is, it is actually kind of surprising xP

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hyperkinetic Author Profile Page May 24, 2012 5:10 PM

There is a glitch in the game where if you work a while at a job and then retire from it you can keep reapplying for your old position and retire again from it to receive your benefits pay out over and over until you have as much money as you like. It may just be during the last segment of the game, not sure, but pretty handy trick. Hello personal airplane!

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hyperkinetic Author Profile Page May 24, 2012 5:15 PM

To get around the issue of not having a homosexual option you can try starting the game as the opposite gender, if you don't mind the pronoun being a bit off in some cases it plays a bit more in step with that path. Not perfect, but better.

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Black Lynx fangirl.

The first one is

finding pornography.

and the second one is

masturbating.

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Am I the only person who survived the car? I tried to be a sociopathic girl, and in the end the alcohol did me in.

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https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawn6eni5siVlzCoTgsTdpggyb-7gMOolL04 Author Profile Page August 18, 2012 11:58 AM

I died when I tried to save a kid from drowning...
On the bright side, my wife will never know about the affair xD

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https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawn6eni5siVlzCoTgsTdpggyb-7gMOolL04 Author Profile Page August 18, 2012 12:51 PM

On one life, my mum died of cancer on one turn, dad died in a car crash the next, got pregnant on another, then my boyfriend left me on the next. So I decided to keep the baby...And had a miscarriage. GAH! Luckily I met a nice guy, and had 2 nice kids, and died whilst shopping the day after the youngest got married. Interesting life to live!

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https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawl5P8G0HFGNFaswp2nIXJy7PNDs6ZfFiKE Author Profile Page September 7, 2012 9:16 PM

I'm stuck on childhood. I keep getting killed. So I just skipped till old age and did Physical. I went to the doctor and was told I had lung cancer and died on the table. I am purely an idiot.

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https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawl5P8G0HFGNFaswp2nIXJy7PNDs6ZfFiKE Author Profile Page September 7, 2012 9:19 PM

Don't skip to dead end. And dont tell the doctor you have trouble breathing.

Cause I got lung cancer right after I did that. xD

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https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawl5P8G0HFGNFaswp2nIXJy7PNDs6ZfFiKE Author Profile Page September 7, 2012 9:29 PM

Does anyone know all the endings.. or the best?

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VaticanCameo Author Profile Page October 9, 2012 10:31 PM

I love this game and I've already play it over several times, yet there is something that apparently I can't quite understand.
I must admit I feel quite stupid to even ask, but how on earth do I enroll for a major? The game allows me to apply for college just fine, but every time I try the major tab it just send me to a page with mere text (as "This is a demanding course of study. Your intellectual sphere had better be pretty sharp") and the "next" button, which when pushed just send me back to the current age's main screen. And that's pretty much it.
I've noticed that with just college most of the jobs are not available (such as lawyer and scientist), so I take that a major is quite crucial (like, well, in real life).
Any help over here, my fine folks?

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emily79965 Author Profile Page October 27, 2012 6:59 PM

Wow...

I lived until I was an old lady then died going shoping. (I passed out on a bench aparently) O-O

I wasn't expecting that.

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baker.maya512 Author Profile Page January 23, 2013 11:25 PM

I love this game! But I found a couple things weird.
Like my fiancee asked if I had ever been serious with anyone evev though we had been dating sense early in the adoleceence stage. He was happy bcuz then he could play the part of the experienced lover. I was his first though.

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Die once because lung tumor. Just when I start to enjoy this game

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emily79965 Author Profile Page April 5, 2013 6:56 PM

After playing the game a few times I realized a job that makes you earn quite a bit of money

entrepreneur

and you don't even need to go to collage to get that job! The only problem is after about 1 life phase my thoughtless spending per turn was more than my income per turn, so I started gradually started losing money.

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I died playing a softball game, I made a nice goddamned play and won the game for us before I died. Go team! Wait... I died...

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care.bear3120 Author Profile Page July 18, 2013 5:49 PM

Why couldn't I go out with Horace? He turned out to be a cool guy despite being a little odd lol. That was silly, I should have been able to marry him!

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emily79965 Author Profile Page August 9, 2013 1:35 PM

Hi, It's me again. I've just been scrolling though the comments and I saw that some people have experienced unusual events. (Parents dying, creating a hit snack food, etc.) I was just wondering, Do you have to have a certain status trigger things like this in the game, or do they just happen randomly? I've played this game through a few times and things like that have never happened to me.

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Hi emily! Most of the things you see people discussing here are entirely random to add variety and replay value. There are some events that have conditions (for example, you can't have a spouse die if you never get married), but for the most part it's just a ton of different encounters to spice up replays.

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I died by sleeping

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vampphoenix99 Author Profile Page August 13, 2013 1:15 PM

I'm only in the "Child" stage now... but the game seems to be assuming me to be heterosexual. This is bothersome.

(Although besides that, it is an excellent game.)

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Hi vampphoenix99. :) As stated in the review and comments, this game unfortunately lacks any homosexual or even bisexual options. It's disappointing, but most likely a product of its time since it was originally made in 1986. (Almost thirty years ago!)

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Aha...now I remember why I never played this before:

"How could these two choices possibly go together? I will let you go back and try a more sensible set of responses for now, but let me warn you. Choosing responses without thinking about them first might be interpreted as a sign of poor judgment. People who have poor judgment usually wind up having very difficult lives. Please try again. "

Sorry, but I DID think about the combination and it was perfectly sensible. I thought the point of this game was to NOT be forced into a path. So...game over.

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VanellopeVonShweetz Author Profile Page December 5, 2013 2:29 AM

I wish I could just find a mate organically instead of using the "meet someone" option :(

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https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawn6eni5siVlzCoTgsTdpggyb-7gMOolL04 Author Profile Page June 14, 2014 7:32 AM

I'm actually quite surprised that you're more likely to be raped if you're playing as male than as a female. Considering the game was released in 1986 (I think), I assumed that the viewpoint would be "Only girls get raped because boobs, guys who get raped are pussies, etc etc". I'm quite glad that the issue was brought awareness, intentional or not.

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