You play as...a person. Who? Well, that's up for the game to decide. When you first start up the game, it automatically generates a random character who, theoretically, could be any average person in just about any country (the website boasts 190 possible countries). Your objective is to get this person through life, from birth to death. Hopefully dying of old age instead of, say, being tortured in prison.
Oh, yeah. Since this is supposed to be a Real Life simulator, it tries its hardest to present how life is actually lived in (insert country here). That includes the bad stuff: being permanently paralyzed after an assault, having nearly all your possessions stolen from you, your girlfriend breaking up with you... The difficulty is determined largely by which country your character lives in: a rich first-world country (for example, the US or UK) is considerably easier to live in than, say, China or India.
To further help the "education" part (after all, this was meant to be played at schools), Real Lives also includes random facts about the country your character lives in. Some facts have a...quite dubious educational value. (For example: "Americans watch and play many types of sports.")
The actual game begins right after your birth, and, at first, there's nothing to do except press "Age A Year" and watch the random events happen. But as you get older, you are given more control, being able to go to school, find a job, start your own business, pursue romance, and have children.
Real Lives was acquired and is currently developing under Neeti Solutions and is now available for both gamers and educators for sale here.
Real Lives provides examples of:
- The Ace: Through customization it's possible to have a character who's maxed out every stat.
- Abusive Parents: A random event can occur where you're beaten by your mother or father. If you're lucky, you can seek help and they'll agree not to do it again. If you're not, well...
- Black Comedy: A lot of unintended humor can come from the random events. You can choose to give money to a beggar but he may decide to rob you of the same money he was going to get. You can get a message that you were raped shortly after receiving one that says that you were imprisoned. Your wife can have lots of children despite you being infertile. You can be passed up for a job as a beggar/scavenger of used goods due to your criminal conviction record. The list goes on.
- Character Customization: As well as using the randomly generated characters, it's possible to create your own. You pick a name (from a drop down list, don't expect to name your kid Sephiroth), gender, country, city, urban or rural, and personal attributes. The only thing you can't control is your family. Later on, you can also choose your characters' interests.
- Crapsack World: Sure can feel like this sometimes. The Random Event %s can stack up on you, leading to situations like Afghanistan being pounded with seven massive earthquakes and four wars in a 20-year period.
- Or Thailand being hit by floods every single year.
- Having a life in the Philippines and Indonesia can lead to all of those events happening, plus volcanic eruptions.
- Difficulty Levels: Not really, but some countries are much easier to have a good life in than others.
- Domestic Abuse: Another random event. The choices are similar to Abusive Parents event above.
- Downer Ending: "You have been murdered at age 4." Also a lot of other ways to die (starvation/malnourishment, tortured in prison, terminal cancer...).
- "You have died trying to save the life of a friend."
- Driven to Suicide: A possible cause of death.
- Edutainment Game
- Freeware Game: The 2004 edition (the 2010 edition is a commercial product).
- Gay Option: Sort of. You can't choose to be straight or gay, but your character will randomly become exclusively interested only in members of the same sex...which means that it's impossible for your character to get married or have children. Unless they live in the Netherlands. If you turn down the first couple of gay romances, the game offers to rule out same-sex relationships.
- Getting Crap Past the Player: In the 2007 and 2010 version, if you're a infertile man, your fertile wife can still have babies...
- Heroic Sacrifice: As mentioned above, you can die trying to save your friend. Unlike many aspects of the game, you do get a choice in this, and you're not guaranteed to die.
- The Illegal: If you don't have enough money to legally emigrate to a country, you're given the option to sneak in illegally for just 1/10th of the money. Failure to get in will get you deported at best and killed at worst.
- Infant Immortality: Averted (see Downer Ending, above). This game is based on real life, after all.
- It is possible to die during birth.
- Karma Meter: Your responses to various scenarios (Will you steal a car? Tell a white lie?) affects your "conscience." You can also improve it by volunteering or through social and political activism.
- Parental Abandonment: You can leave your family at any given time, with no ill-effects in-game.
- Random Event: The entire game is made up of these. There's nothing stopping the same event happening twice in a row, either. "51 years old: Car was stolen. (buys new car) 52 years old: Car was stolen." Oh, Goddamnit.
- Raising Sim
- Simulation Game
- Too Dumb to Live: Every now and then, the game will tell you of a "somewhat risky" but profitable scheme that you can invest up to 3/4 of your savings into. You can guess what happens if you choose yes.
- Gameplay wise, it is possible for you or one of your family members to either be born or have an interest in someone who has zero intelligence, which makes them this trope.
- Vanity Window: The map in the center of the screen is the only window which can't be hidden. It's also the window most likely to get in your way (especially if you're using a widescreen monitor)
- Video Game Caring Potential: It's surprising how much you can feel it when your virtual "favorite" sibling dies.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: A surprisingly decent amount for an edutainment game. Go ahead, deny your children the ability to go to school despite being rich. Go ahead, divorce your spouse and make him/her take all 6 of your kids. Go ahead, ruin that guy's life so you can get a few extra (insert currency here). Go ahead, leave the dying guy out on the street to rot.
- What the Hell, Player?: As mentioned in the Heroic Sacrifice entry, you can choose not to save your friend. If they manage to be saved by someone else, you'll get a message about how they were saved despite your cowardice. Of course they can also just flat out die, which causes a huge drop in your player character's conscience stat.