Life simulation game

Life simulation game
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Life simulation games (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] One of the earliest dating sims, Tenshitachi no gogo,[4] was released for the 16-bit NEC PC-9801 computer that same year,[5] though dating sim elements can be found in Sega's earlier Girl's Garden in 1984.[6] In 1986, the early biological simulation game Bird Week was released.

The first digital pets began appearing from the late 1980s, some of the earliest examples being role-playing video games such as Megami Tensei in 1987,[7] and Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride in 1992.[8] Dragon Quest V, which revolves around the growth of the player character,[9] was also the first game to feature a playable pregnancy, a concept that has since appeared in later life simulation games such as Harvest Moon, The Sims 2 and Fable II.[10] In 1990, an early biological simulation game revolving around the theme of evolution, 46 Okunen Monogatari, was released. A revised version of the game was released in 1992 as E.V.O.: Search for Eden.[11]

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".[12] 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.[citation needed] 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.[13] Players are able to crossbreed creatures, which have a set of genes or descriptors that define the creature's characteristics.[1] Some games also introduce mutations due to random or environmental factors, which can benefit the population as creatures reproduce.[14] These creatures typically have a short life-span, such as the Creatures series where organisms can survive from half an hour to well over seven.[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.[14]

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, and within the arcade/RPG variety, a multitude of entertainment software products including Bird Week, Eco and EVO: Search for Eden.

God game

God games allow players to take on the role of a god with limited powers, similar to the gods from the mythology of ancient Greece.[1] The player's power comes from simulated worshipers, who are usually simple or tribal in nature.[1] Players must economize quantities of power or mana, which are derived from the size and prosperity of their population of worshipers.[1] The player consumes this power by using godly powers to help their worshippers, such as blessing their crops or flattening hills to make better farmland.[1] This results in a positive feedback loop, where more power allows the player to help their population grow which helps them gain more power.[1] However, more powerful abilities typically require more power, and these usually take the form of natural disasters that can damage rival populations rather than improve life for the player's worshipers.[1] Games typically utilize an aerial top-down perspective.[1]

God games are classified as a subgenre of artificial life game because players tend to a population of simulated people that they control only indirectly.[1] Although god games share qualities with both construction and management simulation games and real-time strategy games, players in god games are only able to exercise indirect control over their population.[1] They cannot tell specific units what to do, as seen in strategy games, although players may sometimes compete against other players with their own population of supporters.[1] Moreover, players are given godlike powers not seen in construction or management games, such as the ability to control the weather, transform the landscape, and bless or curse different populations.[1]

Social simulation

Social simulation games explore social interactions between multiple artificial lives. The most famous example from this genre is The Sims,[15] which was influenced by the 1985 game Little Computer People.[16][17] 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.[18]


Biological simulations

  • JSimLife - A Biological life simulation with Genetic algorithm and Neural network. Link
  • Bird Week - a simple game for the Famicom where the player assumes the role of a bird feeding its young
  • Creatures series, by Creature Labs/Gameware Development
  • Lion — the sequel to Wolf only now with lions
  • Odell Lake and Odell Down Under, simple educational games about aquatic life and food chains
  • Science Horizons Survival — an early game which also teaches about food chains.
  • SimAnt — a Maxis game that allows the player to assume control of an ant colony
  • SimEarth
  • SimLife — Another Maxis game which experiments with genetics and ecosystems.
  • SimPark
  • Seaman — a virtual pet game that simulates the raising of a talking fish with a human face that develops into a frog-like creature.
  • Star Wars: The Gungan Frontier simulates a planet which the player populates with creatures that compete for limited supplies of food.[19]
  • Wolf — simulates the life of a wolf, made by Sanctuary Woods.
  • WolfQuest

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)
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden (1992, Enix) — an arcade game which portrays an evolving organism across different stages. "Evolutionary points" are earned by eating other creatures and are used to evolve.
  • 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.
  • 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) - pet game. In this game you raise creatures called norns, Also there are of health problems your norn can experience, such as a flu.

Social simulations

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad 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. ISBN 1-59273-001-9. 
  3. ^ "Unsung Heroes: Little Computer People". GameSpot. 
  4. ^ a b Tenshitachi no Gogo at MobyGames
  5. ^ a b Tenshi-Tachi no Gogo, GameSpot
  6. ^ AtariAge at CGE2010, Atari Age
  7. ^ Kurt Kalata & Christopher J. Snelgrove, Megami Tensei, Hardcore Gaming 101
  8. ^ Gaming's most important evolutions, GamesRadar
  9. ^ Kurt Kalata, A Japanese RPG Primer: The Essential 20 - Dragon Quest V, Gamasutra
  10. ^ A. J. Glasser, Knocked Up: A Look At Pregnancy In Video Games, Kotaku
  11. ^ John Szczepaniak. "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Hardcore Gaming 101. p. 3. Retrieved 2011-03-16.  Reprinted from "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier", Retro Gamer (67), 2009 .
  12. ^ Andrew Stern (1999). "AI Beyond Computer Games". AAAI Technical Report. 
  13. ^ Ringo, Tad. 1993. On the cutting edge of technology. Sams Pub.. "In SimLife, a biological simulation, you custom design the environment and life- forms"
  14. ^ a b Ernest Adams (2003-04-01). "More Sex(es) in Computer Games". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  15. ^ Wright, Will. "Presentation: Sculpting Possibility Space". Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  16. ^ Wright, Will. "A chat about the "The Sims" and "SimCity"". CNN. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  17. ^ "Little Computer People Review". Eurogamer. 
  18. ^ "GameSpy: Top 25 Games of All Time". GameSpy. 
  19. ^ "Star Wars: The Gungan Frontier". IGN. 
  20. ^ NTSC-uk review > Nintendo GameCube > Animal Crossing

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