Review: Alter Ego by Robbie Cooper


Book Reviews

One of the internet’s inherent features is that you don’t really know who you are dealing with. I could be a teenage school girl, posing as a thirty nine year old research scientists who is very interested in contemporary photography (people who met me in person know that that’s not the case). In reality, though, it is a bit more likely that this posing would happen the other way around, especially if you entered the world of online games or “metaverses”, the most well known appear to be “Second Life”. I personally find these kinds of games not very interesting, and since I already have a life that I’m quite happy with, I don’t really need a second one. What I do find interesting, though, is to see what motivates people who participate in those kinds of online activities, and that’s exactly what Robbie Cooper’s Alter Ego is all about.

Alter Ego presents online gamers and participants of sites like “Second Life”, with a photo of the person and some basic statistics next to an image of the “avatar” and a description of that virtual character provided by the person her/himself.

And in fact there is a scientist, a professor of economic and public policy, presenting himself as a girl, along with a housewife posing as a male elf, lots and lots of people playing warriors etc. It’s quite interesting to see what people chose. Probably not surprisingly, almost all “avatars” are considerably more attractive than their real-life creators, especially the “avatars” from “Second Life” - which might or might not point towards the attraction of those activities in the first place. Supposedly, in “Second Life”, “the challenges that stand between you and success […] are often more complex than those you face in real life” - if you believe Philip Rosedale, the CEO and founder of “Second Life”, whose “avatar” of course has “god-like powers”.

I think the most interesting aspect of Alter Ego is that you might expect to find a large collection of “nerds” in the book, and that’s clearly not the case. It’s always easy to make fun of “nerds” (despite the fact that those very same people provide us with the modern technologies that we like to take for granted), and this is clearly not the idea behind the book. Alter Ego takes our stereotypes and deals with them, and therein lies the strength of the book. Have a look, you’ll be surprised who you’ll find online (even though you won’t be able to tell from all the attractive supermodels/heroes you’ll actually see on your computer screen).