Real Lives 2004

Game review by
Jinny Gudmundsen, Common Sense Media
Real Lives 2004 Game Poster Image
Walk a lifetime in another person's shoes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

This is great way to teach about diversity.


Can be configured to allow brutal crimes to occur in a lifetime--but there are no graphics depicting this--teens are just told.


Can be configured to allow sexually transmitted diseases to be a part of a life.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Can be configured to allow for drinking problems and smoking, but teens learn of the consequences.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that some real-life issues presented in this game may not be appropriate for younger children, including sexually transmitted diseases and violent crimes such as rape. However, those issues can be turned off so that kids don't have to face them.

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What's it about?

Kids can live the life of another person, growing up in Ghana, Brazil, or India, by playing REAL LIVES 2004. It starts by generating a life based on current population and birth rate statistics (you have a 1 in 5.3 chance of being born in India). Once born, players face realistic events and problems that typically occur in the country of your birth, making decisions and witnessing the consequences as they age and \"live\" the simulated life. Lives proceed on a yearly basis and, as players make decisions, the data engine adjusts possible outcomes for that particular life.

Many features allow teens to explore the simulation in more depth, including an \"undo\" option permits players to rethink a decision and then see how the change affects their simulated lives. A life can be experienced in 30 minutes or a couple of hours. Players' interactions will depend on how much information they read before making their life decisions, and how lucky they are in life. There are Internet links throughout the game for more information.

Is it any good?

Behind this simulation is a robust data engine that uses statistics from over 100 sources, including the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Amnesty International, encyclopedias, and other fact books to present accurate cultural, political, and economic systems. Statistics also drive the presentation of personal attributes, health issues, family issues, schooling, jobs, natural disasters, wars, and more. It is rated "Teen" because, where statistically appropriate, it deals with things like sexually transmitted diseases and brutal crimes including rape. Those aspects can be eliminated in the "Configure Issues" controls.

This software creates a powerful learning opportunity for teens to experience other cultures with empathy. Though gameplay is mostly text-based, it is fascinating. Real Lives 2004 has a 14-day free download, so families can walk a lifetime in someone else's shoes many times over before deciding to buy the software.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how their lives compare with the lives in the simulation. What was most surprising to you? Has this game changed how you view your own daily decisions? How so? Where would you have chosen to be born, if you could have picked?

Game details

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