Real Lives: Interactive Life Simulation

By Lang, Dan | Teach, September/October 2008 | Go to article overview

Real Lives: Interactive Life Simulation


Lang, Dan, Teach


Real Lives is a simulation program that allows students to explore the personal lives and the social environment of individuals from anywhere in the world. The simulation extends from birth to death for each individual within the program, covering such areas as health, education, careers, social issues, relationships, family planning, and finances. The strength of the program lies in the broad range of lives it can simulate.

When a simulation is started, the program randomly generates a character from virtually any country in the world. The simulation relies on statistics to determine the character's socio-economic, cultural, and religious background, as well as their initial health and likelihood for survival.

When using the simulation, students are free to explore all kinds of information about the character's country, family, and life, ranging from politics and religion, to access to health care and clean drinking water. Each time the student tells the computer to advance one year in the character's life, new choices become available. Initially, these choices are limited to how to spend free time, but each choice shapes the child's future. Also, many uncontrollable events can occur in the character's life, be it natural disasters, health problems, acts of violence, or peer pressure.

Decisions to help others influence the character's conscience score, while decisions to start relationships or have a family affect happiness, as does the balance between a character's work and leisure activities. A decision early in life to accept alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs can result in health problems for the character as the simulation progresses. Choosing to have your character become politically or socially active can result in job loss, expulsion from school, imprisonment, and even torture, depending on the character's native country.

One prominent feature of this program is the ability to review the character's life journal, and you can even prompt the character to revert to an earlier age and alter their life by changing decisions that were made. This feature allows students to consider the consequences of actions and determine how different choices can influence one's life. …

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