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Life simulation game

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Life simulation game

Part of a series on:
Simulation video games

Life simulation (or artificial life games)[1] is a sub-genre of simulation video games in which the player lives or controls one or more virtual lifeforms. A life simulation game can revolve around "individuals and relationships, or it could be a simulation of an ecosystem".[1]


Life simulation games are about "maintaining and growing a manageable population of organisms",[2] where players are given the power to control the lives of autonomous creatures or people.[1] Artificial life games are related to computer science research in artificial life. But "because they're intended for entertainment rather than research, commercial A-life games implement only a subset of what A-life research investigates."[2] This broad genre includes god games which focus on managing tribal worshipers, as well as artificial pets that focus on one or several animals. It also includes genetic artificial life games, where players manages populations of creatures over several generations.[1]


Artificial life games and life simulations find their origins in artificial life research, including Conway's Game of Life from 1970.[1] But one of the first commercially viable artificial life games was Little Computer People in 1985,[1] a Commodore 64 game that allowed players to type requests to characters living in a virtual house. The game is cited as a little-known forerunner of virtual-life simulator games to follow.[3][4] One of the earliest dating sims, Tenshitachi no gogo,[5] was released for the 16-bit NEC PC-9801 computer that same year,[6] though dating sim elements can be found in Sega's earlier Girl's Garden in 1984.[7] In 1986, the early biological simulation game Bird Week was released.

In the mid-1990s, as artificial intelligence programming improved, true AI virtual pets such as Petz and Tamagotchi began to appear. Around the same time, Creatures became "the first full-blown commercial entertainment application of Artificial Life and genetic algorithms".[8] By 2000, The Sims refined the formula seen in Little Computer People and became the most successful artificial life game created to date.[1] In 2008 also came the game 'Spore' in which you develop an alien species from the microbial tide pool into intergalactic gods.


Digital pets

Digital pets are a subgenre of artificial life game where players train, maintain, and watch a simulated animal.[1] The pets can be simulations of real animals, or fantasy pets.[2] Unlike genetic artificial life games that focus on larger populations of organisms, digital pet games usually allow players to interact with one or a few pets at once.[1] In contrast to artificial life games, digital pets do not usually reproduce or die,[2] although there are exceptions where pets will run away if ignored or mistreated.[1]

Digital pets are usually designed to be cute, and act out a range of emotions and behaviors that tell the player how to influence the pet.[1] "This quality of rich intelligence distinguishes artificial pets from other kinds of A-life, in which individuals have simple rules but the population as a whole develops emergent properties".[2] Players are able to tease, groom, and teach the pet, and so they must be able to learn behaviors from the player.[1] However, these behaviors are typically "preprogrammed and are not truly emergent".[2]

Game designers try to sustain the player's attention by mixing common behaviors with more rare ones, so the player is motivated to keep playing until they see them.[1] Otherwise, these games often lack a victory condition or challenge, and can be classified as software toys.[2] Games such as Nintendogs have been implemented for the Nintendo DS, although there are also simple electronic games that have been implemented on a keychain, such as Tamagotchi.[1] There are also numerous online pet-raising/virtual pet games, such as Neopets. Today online games which allow you to show dogs or sim horse games are also quite popular.

Biological simulations

Some artificial life games allow players to manage a population of creatures over several generations, and try to achieve goals for the population as a whole.[1] These games have been called genetic artificial life games,[1] or biological simulations.[9] Players are able to crossbreed creatures, which have a set of [1] Players are able to watch forces of natural selection shape their population, but can also interact with the population by breeding certain individuals together, by modifying the environment, or by introducing new creatures from their design.[10]

Description Biosphere can be seen as some sort of precursor to the more known Maxis game SimLife. The player assumes the role of captain and ecologist on the starship Arkworld, the task is the survival of a colony of (randomized) alien lifeforms on a newly discovered planet. To fulfill it, animals and plants from the Arkworld's cargo hold can be added, with the goal to create a functioning, self-supporting ecosystem.

By using the icon-driven interface, the environment as well as traits of the native colony and the species on board the ship can be examined. Various factors, such as the atmospheric elements that are expelled/inhaled and food habits play a role. The Arkworld contains two hundred species of animals and plants of randomized quantity, and there is also a limited option of genetic engineering, that may not necessarily produce the desired characteristics. To make the simulation run its course, the integrated time-control is locked into hypertime mode. The game will then run until all native animals are perished or the stability of the created ecology is proven for sixty-five thousand days. A save option is included.

Another group of biological simulation games seek to simulate the life of an individual animal whose role the player assumes (rather than simulating an entire ecosystem controlled by the player). These include Wolf and its sequel Lion, the similar WolfQuest, and the more modest Odell educational series.

In addition, a large number of games have loose biological or evolutionary themes but don't attempt to reflect closely the reality of either biology or evolution: these include, within the "God game" variety, Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life and Spore (2008 video game), and within the arcade/RPG variety, a multitude of entertainment software products including Bird Week, Eco and EVO: Search for Eden.

Social simulation

Social simulation games explore social interactions between multiple artificial lives. The most famous example from this genre is The Sims,[11] which was influenced by the 1985 game Little Computer People.[12][13] These games are part of a subcategory of artificial life game sometimes called a virtual dollhouse,[1] a category which includes Animal Crossing by Nintendo.[14]


Biological simulations

Loosely biology- and evolution-inspired games

Some games take biology or evolution as a theme, rather than attempting to simulate.

  • Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest (2002, Nintendo) – an action adventure.
  • Eco (1988, Ocean)
  • Evolites - Simple Evolution Simulator (2006, Reflect Games) — a simple life simulation where you indirectly control the fates of a countless number of tiny, unique creatures, known as Evolites. As the Evolites evolve naturally, various tools are at your disposal to save, destroy, create, and interact with them. You may let things run their course, or you may directly intervene, and make sure that only your chosen strain of Evolites survives!
  • flOw (2006, Jenova Chen) — a Flash game similar to E.V.O.
  • L.O.L.: Lack of Love (2000, ASCII Entertainment) - a role playing game; the player assumes the role of a creature which gradually changes its body and improves its abilities, but this is done by means of more varied achievements, often involving social interactions with other creatures.
  • Seaman (video game) (2000, Vivarium) - a virtual pet video game for the Sega Dreamcast.
  • Seventh Cross Evolution (1999, UFO Interactive Games) - an action game.
  • Spore (2008, Electronic Arts) - a multi-genre god game. The first and second stages are biology-themed, although the second stage also has more role playing game elements.
  • Creatures (artificial life program) (1998–2002, Creature Labs) - an early 'artificial-life' program, the Creatures franchise features creatures called 'Norns', each of which has its own 'digital DNA' that later generations can inherit. The Norns are semi-autonomous, but must be trained to interact with their environment to avoid starvation.

Social simulations

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders Publishing. pp. 477–487.  
  3. ^ "Unsung Heroes: Little Computer People". GameSpot. 
  4. ^ Kidd, Graham (August 1996). "Get A-Life". Computer Shopper. 
  5. ^ a b Tenshitachi no Gogo at MobyGames
  6. ^ a b Tenshi-Tachi no Gogo, GameSpot
  7. ^ AtariAge at CGE2010, Atari Age
  8. ^ Andrew Stern (1999). "AI Beyond Computer Games". AAAI Technical Report. 
  9. ^ Ringo, Tad. 1993. On the cutting edge of technology. Sams Pub.. "In SimLife, a biological simulation, you custom design the environment and life- forms"
  10. ^ a b Ernest Adams (2003-04-01). "More Sex(es) in Computer Games". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  11. ^ Wright, Will. "Presentation: Sculpting Possibility Space". Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  12. ^ Wright, Will. """A chat about the "The Sims" and "SimCity.  
  13. ^ "Little Computer People Review". Eurogamer. 
  14. ^ "GameSpy: Top 25 Games of All Time". GameSpy. 
  15. ^ "Star Wars: The Gungan Frontier". IGN. 
  16. ^ NTSC-uk review > Nintendo GameCube > Animal Crossing
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