Logo from the 2010 release of Real Lives.
Real Lives is a 2001 educational video game designed by Educational Simulations and now taken over by Neeti Solutions, Pune, India. The third version of the game is currently running after including player feedback in its development. It allows players to live out lives of randomly generated people on Earth. Players are allowed to choose their occupation, living conditions, social activities, and start families, but all their decisions are affected by available statistical real data. For example, if your character was born a girl in India, a database of Indian girl's names would be consulted as well as a database of Indian last names, Indian cities, Indian health statistics, etc. Throughout the game player's lives can be affected by random events such as floods, outbreaks of war, disease, car accidents and other major life changing events. Players get to play from the moment of birth until they die. Older features from the 2010 edition include a three-dimensional face for the player character and his or her relatives, the ability to start a business as an alternative of finding jobs and Google Maps connectivity.
Different countries mean different possibilities for their citizen. In reality there is no choice whether one is born into a wealthy family or a poor one. Similar rules apply to your innate talent and other skills. Yet, everyone seeks happiness regardless of their situation but this can prove difficult depending on the country, skills and family wealth. By putting yourself in a different life situation the game aims to provoke questions about life and empathy towards other people in the user.
Bob Runyan grew up in the area that was to become the "Silicon Valley" of California. As a young adult, he traveled to Mexico and Europe and played soccer with international teams, all of which kindled his passion for understanding different cultures. Bob taught at the high school level and after a few years, he joined the Peace Corp and taught math and computer science at the Polytechnic School in the Seychelles Islands. He also worked on advancing his own computer programming skills. After returning to the United States, Bob met Kathy and continued teaching until 1989 when he changed careers to become a computer programmer. In 1996, Bob felt inspired to write software that fostered empathy by simulating life anywhere in the world based on real-world statistics. Bob went into business for himself founding Educational Simulations Inc. to develop and sell “RealLives” and launched the first version in 2001.
Out of faith in this calling and a desire to support Bob's ability to focus more on developing RealLives, Bob and Kathy simplified their lifestyle, which included Kathy and their three sons giving up homeschooling. In 2003, Kathy began to work for the Woolman Semester, a school that focused on peace, social justice and sustainability. This work was well-aligned with the mission of RealLives and also provided a steady income for the Runyan family.
Bob met Dr. Parag Mankeeker through the Ashoka Foundation and invited Parag to serve on the board of Educational Simulations as Kathy and Bob they were deeply impressed with his vision and passion for RealLives. In September 2018, the Social Tech Entrepreneur Dr. Parag Mankeeker was Entrepreneur in Residence at ETH Zürich.
The game is structured in rounds which represent a year. So all decisions that you take will be valid for at least one year. You can make decisions about education, profession, leisure, relationships, if you want to live with your parents and how you spend your money when moved out. There are also certain sudden events which need an instant decision. A few examples of such events: "A person seems to be hurt do you want to help?", "You are pregnant. What do you do?" or "Do you want to get a pet?".
You have 11 attributes which are health, resistance, happiness, intelligence, artistic, musical, athletic, strength, endurance, spiritual and wisdom. These change through events as well as your decisions in the game. The two attributes artistic and musical affect your relationship while athletic has positive effects on health, resistance, strength and happiness. By going with the mouse over them you can see the affect they have.
Every year events occur, and the character's attributes change. People get sick or change jobs or relationships. There can also be things happening in the state regulatory or natural catastrophes. During most of the events are additional information is available. This information can explain the origin or effect of an illness, possibility of natural catastrophes as well as actual structures in society and state. Some of the events happening do not have an effect on the game, but teach players the way things happen in the real lives of other people.
- Gudmundsen, Jinny (April 13, 2004). "Learn about others' lives with interactive role-playing". USA Today. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- Lang, Dan (September 1, 2008). "Real Lives: Interactive Life Simulation". Teach. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- Crogan, Patrick (December 1, 2008). "Real lives 2004: the devil you know..." Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2010.