This is the one hundred seventy-third entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Our one hundred seventy-third random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality is here with a message of encouragement and support. It’s EGO, by Sandy Pug Games, and its tagline in the bundle reads:

A game about learning to love yourself

It’s time to spread the love… to ourselves.

EGO is a tabletop role-playing game, but designed for a single player. That means that, unlike most such games that have come up in this series, I’m actually able to play it! And I did. Er, rather, I tried to. It turns out I didn’t understand how it’s supposed to work. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

EGO doesn’t have the dice rolls or other game mechanics that players might expect from a tabletop role-playing game. Instead, it’s more of a creative writing exercise, using a few prompts. Players are asked to design a character, who must have a Class and a Goal. The goal, EGO emphasizes, must be something epic, with examples including slaying the End-Eater Snake to save us all, or bringing peace to the land of Unternia. While these examples imply a fantasy setting like that of the classic Dungeons & Dragons, and indeed the inclusion of Classes further recalls games of that ilk, I believe players are free to choose whatever setting they choose. The point is that they must create a hero with a suitably epic goal.

This character has a set of stats, and for each one players must choose one activity of either self-improvement or self-love. Acts of self-improvement are things like practicing a skill, exercising, or taking some type of lessons, while acts of self-love are undertaken purely for pleasure: eating a favorite food, partaking in a craft one enjoys. Every time one engages in one of these activities, players are asked how it went. About as expected? Not that great? Amazing? Each has some question prompts for the player to write what happens to their character, chaining them together to create their story. They then mark experience next to the appropriate stat, and, after accumulating ten experience points (provided they are distributed across both acts of self-improvement and acts of self-love) their character levels up, triggering another writing prompt. Reach level 10, and the game is complete.

I tried to play, but found the writing prompts confusing. If my character engaged in an act of self-love like reading a favorite book, I was then asked questions that seemed unrelated to that activity. How, exactly, was I meant to advance my character’s story if he was just sitting around reading, or practicing playing an instrument? Well, reader, it turns out I was doing it wrong. Completely wrong. I was supposed to pick acts of self-love and self-improvement for myself, the player. And I was meant to perform these acts myself, in my actual life. Then, based on how they actually went in my real life, I would follow the writing prompts to tell the next part of my character’s story. This would connect my own activities to this epic fantasy tale, and help keep me motivated long-term as I worked on improving and loving myself. Well, then.

I really like this concept. And it makes so much more sense. If I were to, say, go for a run, but don’t have a great time for whatever reason, I’m then guided to write about my character overcoming adversity, or meeting a new ally who saves them from a difficult situation. If I were to play some music just for fun (a self-love activity, rather than self-improvement) and have a better time than I expected, my prompts for my character would be about pushing their limits, or some great achievement that others will remember forever. The pacing is also much more appropriate when playing correctly. The journey to level 10 is a long one, encouraging me to persist in the activities I set for myself, ideally such that they become habits. EGO is indeed about teaching players to love themselves.

But a game of EGO is far too long to actually play for this series. Even if I did one of my chosen acts per day, it would take 90 days to reach level 10, and I can’t pause Scratching That Itch for that long. After all, we haven’t even quite reached 10% of the bundle entries in more than three years of the series. I’m not sure if I’ll play EGO anyway, while moving on to new bundle picks in parallel. I feel that I’m already pretty good at doing activities I enjoy — like writing this blog — without needing extra motivation, and I’m (perhaps paradoxically) not that excited by creative writing, so I worry the writing prompts would feel like chores rather than rewards. For others, however, I imagine EGO could be really helpful and enjoyable. Seeing the story come together over months of real time would be a treat. If that sounds interesting to you, and you missed it in the bundle, EGO is sold for a minimum price of $2.50.

That’s 173 down, and only 1568 to go!