“Will you try to make all the right choices in an attempt to become a model citizen sometime before you die? You could marry the man/woman of your dreams, have kids, and pick up a good job along the way. Or will you make choices that horrify your parents? You could descend into a life of crime, start prison riots, smuggle duffle bags, and cheat on your spouse. It’s all up to you…” (from the Apple App Store)
As a creative writer and as someone who spends way too much time daydreaming about the adventures and plights of original characters I create, I had no idea how much I needed a game like Bitlife. When the pandemic started and my town went into lockdown, I had more free time on my hands than I knew what to do with, so I absentmindedly downloaded Bitlife on my iPhone on a whim. I hadn’t played life simulators on my phone before, other than the Sims Freeplay, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Within minutes, I was hooked, and I was sinking hours into the game.
Bitlife is a mobile life simulator game created by developer CandyWriter LLC, released on September 29, 2018. The game uses a text-based format, and players start their new digital lives as infants, thrust into the surprisingly accurate yet hilarious and pessimistic world of Bitlife. When starting the game, players have two options. You can choose a Custom Life, which enables you to select the value of your starting attributes, like Discipline, Fertility, Health, Karma, and Looks, choose a starting country, change your avatar’s appearance, and choose your gender (which you can change later in the game if you so wish). If you already know what kind of character you want to play as, whether it’s a royal who abdicates the throne to pursue a life of fame as a rockstar or a thief who makes their living from jacking cars and robbing banks, then the Custom Life is a great route to take since your starting attributes tie in directly with your success in life. Want a life of fame? Make sure your Looks attribute is at least 90 percent. Want to break into the world of professional sports? Raise that Discipline bar.
Alternatively, players can choose to start a Random Life, meaning that everything is up to chance, and you could start life as the offspring of the Count of Monaco or as the product of an affair between two lonely adults in New York City. Once the game begins, you’re in the infant stage, and while your options for gameplay are limited, the older you get, the more activities you unlock. Players can increase their athleticism and discipline by going to the gym, participating in after school sports, or going for a walk. Maybe you’re hoping to get an early start with your life of crime.
As a juvenile, you can commit grand theft auto and sell the stolen vehicles on the black market for a hefty sum, steal packages from your neighbors, break into houses, or randomly pickpocket strangers, but there are consequences for your actions, and you may end up going to jail. At only 14 years old, one of my characters was arrested after attempting to sell a stolen Buick on the black market, and I was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention. I managed to escape and returned home, only for my mother to hand me right back over to the authorities.
Relationships are a driving force in the game. You’ll want to spend time with your family and friends, going to the movies, playing games, enjoying family vacations, and getting your older siblings to beat up the guy who’s bullying you in school. Just as random events happen to you as the player, the same thing happens to the people in your life. One of my friends randomly contracted rabies and died the next year. My mother and father divorced, and my mother married a man who hated my guts. You’ll find yourself getting oddly attached to some of these characters, and sometimes they’re fates are cruel and tragic.
Once you graduate high school, you can choose the college route or jump right into the workforce. One of my characters became a writer at 18 years old for a small publishing company, but within a few years, I was racking in millions of dollars from my book deals, commercials, and scandalous photoshoots (although my digital mother highly disapproved). I had a happy relationship with my wife and showered her with jewels and fancy cars, and we had eleven children. I ended up dying from a heart attack from working too hard at only 45 years old, but the game gives you the option to continue playing as one of your children, meaning that I could carry on the family bloodline through several generations and different playstyles. I chose to resume the game as my daughter, who became a famous social media influencer, and not only gained her wealth from her widely successful YouTube channel but through marriage to a wealthy older gentleman with no children who eventually died and left his young bride everything.
Another one of my characters decided to pursue a law degree. After several rigorous years of studying and a little too much partying, I became a successful lawyer for a few years but never left the partying scene, spending too much time at casinos and nightclubs. I gambled my fortune away, much to the dismay of my husband, a young man I’d met through the gay dating app. Addicted to alcohol, I eventfully went to rehab and managed to get my life back on track; I saved my marriage with my husband of four years, and we adopted a teenager who’s mother couldn’t afford to raise him. I made some money by buying up real estate and then selling the properties after a few years. While I lost my job as a lawyer due to my earlier alcoholism, I started a new career as a hand model, and all seemed well–that is until my friends invited me to the horseraces. In a sudden moment of terrible decision making, I put most of my money on one of the horses, confidant that I’d see a hefty return from my bet. However, the horse I bet on finished last, and suddenly all my money was gone. I fell into debt, my husband divorced me, and my son died in a car crash shortly after getting his license.
In another life, I was born into Royalty in Monaco, and while my early years started happily enough, my parents kept having babies. I knew I didn’t want to share my inheritance with so many benefactors. One by one, I offed my siblings in various ways (yeah…the game inspires some inner darkness, and don’t pretend for a minute that it’s not somewhat alluring) from poisoning to impalement with a wooden stake to slipping elephant laxative in their food. I was never caught, and even if I was, I could have flaunted my royal status. My reign of terror came to an end when I tried to push my last surviving sister down the stairs, but she ended up pushing me down instead, killing me instantly.
The options for how you want to play Bitlife are limitless, which adds so much replay value to the game. You can take your character in any direction you want, and with the vast options of career paths and lifestyle choices, from becoming the first gay president of the United States to a hardboiled and alcohol dependant private investigator, every single playthrough feels unique. Bitlife helped get me through a wave of depression when the pandemic started, and I found myself eager to create my next original character and navigate them through Bitlife’s complex text-based world. The game feels and plays like an interactive novel or a choose-your-own-adventure game where you’re in control from start to finish. With new updates released regularly, including an upcoming Mafia Update, I highly recommend giving this game a try.
Have you played Bitlife? What zany play-styles have you done? Let me know in the comments and make sure to check out my website for all things pop culture. Stay nerdy!