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BitLife: Life Simulator, or simply BitLife, is an American text-based video game released in 2018 by CandyWriter LLC. The objective of the game is to live a digital life without struggles and difficulties, depicted with cartoons and humorous scenarios. On the Google Play Store, it was ranked as the most popular game on the website and mobile app, as well as on the Apple App Store.

Gameplay

Upon creation of a new game, the character (you) has a randomized name, hair and skin color, and the city and country in which the character lives in varies. The first thing the app displays is who the character's parents are, and their occupation, as well as your birthday, star sign, how you were conceived and if you have any siblings or pets. To add one year to your character's life, you press the "Age" button.

Stages of a life

Childhood

Between ages 0 and 5, you are considered an "infant." At age 5 or 6, depending on the country you are playing in, you begin elementary or primary school. You then advance to the next level of schooling by age 12, either "middle school" or "secondary school" depending on the country, and then (in some countries) to a final level of basic schooling by age 15. All female characters will also have their menarche randomly between ages 10 and 15. At age 10, it becomes possible to ask out your classmates in school, while the "love" tab that allows you to ask out anyone becomes available at age 14. At age 12, activities to raise the character's four bars (happiness, health, smarts, and looks) become available. Then by age 14, the option to get part-time or freelance jobs becomes available.

During childhood, you are largely limited in activities to do. You may be able to ask your parents for money, depending on how "generous" your parents are as shown by their generosity bar. Various pop up scenarios may also appear depending on what age you are at. In your "infancy" for example, you may encounter scenarios involving your first words or being taken to get vaccinated. Once you reach school age meanwhile, scenarios involving activities with friends, your "first kiss," school dances, or other events may appear.

Adulthood

Between ages 15 and 19, depending on the country, you can take your driving test, which is simply a test asking what a road sign means, contrary to real life. If you pass, you may receive a car from your parents depending on their generosity. After you graduate from high school, you can decide whether to study at university or community college, take time off, acquire a full-time occupation, or enlist in the military.

At age 18, the option to buy a house becomes available, as do all remaining activities such as clubbing, vacationing, emigration, various crime options such as home invasion, and gambling. If you take out a loan for school or to buy assets like a house or car, it is paid back with deductions from your yearly salary each time you "age."

As you age through adulthood, random pop up scenarios will appear as you age requiring decisions that can have major effects on your life. Such scenarios generally involve your career, your health, your spouse and/or children (if you have any), your friends, as well as potential random encounters such as a homeless person asking for money, being a witness to a crime, having to decide whether to risk your life to save another, and many others.

After working for a certain number of years, the option to retire becomes available (the exact age of which varies by country). Many occupations will force you into retirement after a certain point, though in most occupations you will receive a pension after retiring. It is possible to use the lawsuit option to sue the employer for this, though it is not always successful.

Death

If you live your life without many harming consequences, you will die of natural causes. Generally, if you keep your health bar close to or at 100%, you will most likely live beyond 100 years, contrary to real life where few people live for that long. At the end of each life, you are assigned a ribbon based on how you lived your life. "Fertile" ribbons are assigned for having lots of kids for example. A couple of ribbons are easy to get while others are far more difficult to obtain. Currently there is a total of 30 ribbons. All previous lives you lived are viewable via a "cemetery."

After you die, you have the option of starting a new life (either customized or random), replaying the same character again with the option to make different choices, or continuing a "legacy" as your character’s child.

Characters' stat bars

At the bottom of the screen when playing are four bars showing the happiness, health, smarts, and looks of one’s character between 0 and 100%. Each bar will randomly fluctuate each time the "age" button is pressed. Various activities can be performed to either raise or lower each of the bars, such as going to the gym to raise looks. The levels of a player‘s bars have major impacts on the lives of their characters. High smarts can allow one's character to receive a scholarship to university for example, while by contrast, low smarts can result in one's application to university being rejected altogether.

Certain occupations in the game (such as an acting job) can make one become "famous," at which point a fifth bar showing your level of "fame" is shown. If you fail to keep the fame bar at a certain level, then the bar disappears and you are no longer "famous." There is also another unseen bar concerning the character's "karma," which fluctuates depending on the nature of actions you take for good or bad. While the bar is never seen as one of the main bars at the bottom of the screen during gameplay, it is shown on your character's gravestone after death.

Relationships

An example of the relationships tab in BitLife, showing a character's wife and siblings There is a new update where you can interact with your classmates. A core component of the game is relationships with "family member" NPCs. These include your parents, siblings, nieces/nephews, children, grandchildren, and lovers. With every one of these characters, your character has a "relationship bar" that fluctuates randomly as you "age" and can be raised (or lowered) by interacting with them. If a relationship bar drops too low, then the family member in question may refuse to interact with you.

Your most important relationship is the one with your lover, with whom you may get married to and/or have children with. You may encounter potential lovers randomly as you play, or in the "love" tab. After you date a lover for the first time, even if you break things off with them they will remain in your character's "exs" tab, allowing for the ability to get back together.

Any pets you have also have a relationship bar with you, and are listed alongside other family members of yours with unique interactions, tailored specifically to the species of animal the pet is.

Occupations

There are several types of job occupations that a player may take up within the game. Most full-time jobs require a certain level of education, with some requiring you to attend a specialized school, such as veterinary school for a veterinarian occupation. Other jobs may simply require a certain character stat to be at a high level, such as high looks to be a model. All full-time jobs also require an "interview" before you are hired, which is simply a random question you must answer.

Alongside full-time jobs, there are also part-time jobs which a player may take up alongside a full-time occupation such as school, as well as "freelance" jobs that can be taken up at random for quick cash, like babysitting and lawn mowing.

The hours you may work per week in a part-time occupation vary widely in the game, while full-time occupations are generally fixed at around 40 hours a week (it is possible to toggle with this however). In total, it is possible to have a "schedule" of up to 70 hours a week in the game, though a high number of hours puts the player's character at risk of contracting high blood pressure and ultimately a heart attack.

Minigames

Within the game, there are various minigames you may encounter when performing certain actions. In the casino, for example, there is a blackjack minigame you can bet money on. Another example involves the option to solve a puzzle that involves maneuvering around a guard in order to escape from prison, which changes in difficulty depending upon the security level of the prison the player's character is in. There is also a minigame based on the 1978 game Snake which one may play while in prison to start a riot. When serving in the military meanwhile, you can occasionally be sent to a random country on "deployment," in which case you must solve a Minesweeper-type minigame (regardless of branch) without detonating a land mine.

Differences between countries

The game has dozens of different countries for a player to begin a new life in. Depending on the country being played in, certain activities such as gambling, same sex marriage, or abortion may be legal or illegal. Cost of living and income is also higher or lower depending on the country, and taxes vary by country as well, with some countries like Saudi Arabia having no taxes at all in game. Another notable difference is if you play in a South American country, you will have llamas available as pets instead of horses if you own a farm-type property.

Playing in certain countries such as Afghanistan is made more dangerous by a small chance that each time you hit the "age" button, you can be randomly killed in a sort of "terrorist" attack. Puerto Rico, despite being a territory of the United States, stands as its own "country" in the game due to differences in common names.

Every country also comes with handful of cities one can select to play in, such as Warsaw, Poland. In two cities (Miami and Tucson in the United States) in the game, which in real life are host to the headquarters of BitLife's developers, it is possible for your character to get a job working for Candywriter.

Custom characters and cities

Each player has the option to add in names of people they know in real life to the game as custom names, allowing them to pop up at random points as one plays through a life, such as in the "love" tab when a player explores date options. A player may also add their hometown into the game to play in via the custom cities tab (if their hometown is not already in the game), or any other city they desire to play in whether real or fictional.

LGBT representation

Upon reaching age 12, the option to "come out" and declare one’s sexuality becomes available, with the ability to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual. Each character you play as has a randomly selected sexuality which your character will have "natural tendencies" toward, however it is possible to switch freely between the different options. A character's sexuality will determine the gender of the potential lovers they encounter. Depending on the country being played in, LGBT activities may be limited or outright illegal.

There is also an option to get a sex change in the "plastic surgery" section, with the option to change a character’s first name upon doing so. This option has frequently been employed by players as a tactic to avoid recapture after escaping from prison.

Heirlooms

Since August, 2019, the game has featured collectable "heirloom" items, with the ability for a player to collect a new one once per day. Upon receiving an heirloom, it appears alongside a character's "assets," and you may have the options to refurbish it, play with it, sell or donate it. If you continue as a character's child after death, the heirloom is passed down to the child. Overtime as you "age," the value of the heirloom will rise in exponential fashion. A list of heirlooms that the player has collected can be found in the main menu. It is possible to collect the same heirloom more than once.

Certain heirlooms are rarer than others, with the rarest ones being called "super rare." Notable rare heirlooms include the Holy Grail, a Route 66 gas pump, and Donald Trump's golden toilet. Generally the rarer an heirloom is, the more monetary value it has, though this is not always the case.

In-app purchases

Bitizenship

Although the game is free to download on both the App Store and Google Play, in order to access certain features such as "exotic" pets, dark mode, prison gangs, the ability to continue beyond two generations of characters, as well as to remove advertisements, the game has the option to purchase "Bitizenship." Upon doing so, you become a "Bitizen," a title displayed by a badge in the upper right corner of the screen when playing.

Time machine

Within the activities tab of the game, a "time machine" feature is available which acts as a means to revert several years off of a character's life in increments of either 1, 3 or 5 years for real life money. The price is the same regardless of the number of years a player is backtracking on. Alongside Bitizenship, this is the only other in-app purchase in the game, and the only feature not available for free or unlocked with Bitizenship. According to the developers, the reason behind the price tag for the time machine was to discourage players from using it on a regular basis.

Development and updates

Since inception, the game has been updated many times to include new features including siblings, pets, rekindling of broken relationships, more available countries such as Switzerland and Thailand, new ribbons, the option to continue on as a character’s children after your character dies, and many more features that the original version of the game released in September 2018 lacked.

Updates adding new content are typically released every couple of weeks. Often, much of the new content added is suggested to the developers by users online.

iOS vs Android versions

As the iOS version of the game was released months prior the Android version, and the developers of the game are native to iOS when it comes to programming, the Android version currently lacks numerous features of iOS, such as continuing on as a character’s child after death, and custom cities. Despite the differences, iOS and Android typically receive updates at the same frequency, and as such most new features are added to iOS first, and then Android later on.

Notable updates

Character emoji updates

When the game was originally released, it lacked any visual representation of your character, showing only the flag of the country you lived in where it now displays your character's emoji. The original version of character emojis added were modeled off of the real emoji skin colors set, which resulted in "yellow" skinned models being controversially used to represent players' characters of East Asian background. Another update concerning character icons was released later on in May of 2019 for iOS (September on Android), which added red haired characters and hijabs for female characters in Muslim countries, while also removing the "yellow" skinned models.

Fame update

A major update adding in the ability to become "famous" from certain careers along with various fame activities was released for iOS on April 26, 2019. Having been released in the wake of the college admissions scandal that had become widely publicized in the previous month, one notable new feature was the ability for your character (when "famous") to bribe college admissions officers to get your child into university. The update also dramatically raised the cap on money your character could earn, which had previously been limited to only $2,147,483,647 by the 32-bit integer limit. By upgrading to a 64-bit limit, which has a maximum value of over 9 quintillion, the update effectively removed the limit on the amount of money your character could realistically make.

Prison life update

On August 8, 2019, a major update that completely overhauled and expanded the prison aspect of the game was released to iOS users, adding the ability to join a prison gang, take on a prison job, among other features, such as the addition of "minimum" and "maximum" security prisons in place of previously having all prisons be the same security level. Capital punishment as well as life sentences were also added, ending a previous running gag of players simply being able to rake up an endless number of years in a sentence that could last well beyond an actual lifetime. While the update was generally well received, sharp criticism ensued over a feature that allowed players to "have their way" with fellow inmates in the game. The feature was later removed in a patch released days later.

As each fellow inmate in the game (who were viewable via the new "prison yard" feature) when you went to prison each displayed what they were "in for" on their profile, a lighthearted joke was added by the developers of the update where some inmates were in for "complaining about BitLife Android," which drew some criticism from Android players who saw screenshots of the feature online. This feature was also later removed.

Android "ketchup" updates

A series of updates being dubbed "ketchup" updates by the developers began to be released in late September of 2019 for the Android version of the game; adding in numerous new little features including achievements, various pop up scenarios, and many other things. The update was received well by players, though it soon became notorious for the number of bugs it carried, including one in particular that became widely shared on social media (especially Reddit) where players could live for an infinite number of years without ever dying of old age. After a total of three patches were released over several days, the "aging vampire" bug as it was dubbed was finally removed.

School life update

On September 29, 2019, in celebration of the game's one year anniversary since launch, a major update adding in a host of new activities relating to school was released for iOS. New content included the ability to interact with classmates and teachers, join clubs and sports, a popularity meter and various "cliques," fraternities and sororities at universities, a revamp of the different levels of schooling with respect to country, among many other features. The update also included new college professor and college dean occupations, and (notably) a new feature allowing your character (when a university student) to "seduce" and possibly "hook up" with college professors and the dean.

The update was generally received well by players. One major bug that was reported within hours of launch involved a player's character being permanently stuck in "middle school" once enrolled, which also allowed for one to date classmates as young as age 10 despite being an adult. A patch was released several days after the initial update to correct this.

Temporary features

The game has periodically been updated to include various temporary features in recognition of certain events. During October 2018, a "vampire" occupation was added in recognition of Halloween. In recognition of Christmas in 2018 meanwhile, numerous features including an "elf" occupation as well as pop ups revolving around Christmas gifts were added, among other holiday season themed features. One popular temporary feature was a "leprechaun" occupation, which had a maximum income of over $5 million and was available for a day on March 17, 2019 in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day.

Alongside temporary holiday themed features, since July 2019, the game has also featured pop up scenarios relating to "current" events. Notable ones have included an option for your character to pick a side in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, and an option to decide whether or not to join in on the Facebook event to storm Area 51.

Purchase of InstLife

On June 17, 2019 it was announced by the developers of the game that BitLife had acquired another life simulator game named InstLife (its main competitor), and that content from the latter was to be merged into the former over the coming months. The acquisition provoked polarizing reactions online, with many praising the merger, while others (especially longtime InstLife users) sharply criticized it and accused Candywriter of trying to "eliminate competition."

Subscription test

On October 1, 2019, it became widely revealed that for the iOS version of the game in Australia and Canada, the "Bitizenship" in app purchase was being charged as a monthly subscription, as a "test" to see if a subscription with a lower cost than a one time purchase would result in more players buying the feature. In all other locations Bitizenship was still being charged as a one time purchase, as it had always been since the game was originally released.

The reaction to this revelation of a possible move to a subscription based service was almost universally negative, and in response the game's developers initially followed up by stating that those who previously bought Bitizenship as a one-time purchase would be grandfathered in and never have to pay the monthly subscription were the feature ever expanded worldwide. After two more days, in response to the sharp criticism that had ensued, the developers announced via Twitter that they would be suspending the test, though also stating that further testing of the feature would still be possible in the future, alongside another possibility of instead updating Bitizenship to have its various pieces purchasable in chunks, rather than having all premium features under a single purchase.

Online community

Since the release of the game, the developers of BitLife have operated accounts on a handful of social media platforms, namely Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. In the game, each account is linked to players via the "BitLife Community..." tab. The developers frequently engage with players of the game on their various accounts, often taking and implementing suggestions from users in comments of their posts into the game.

Reddit

As of April, 2020, the r/BitLifeApp community on Reddit has around 80,000 members.

Reception

Overall, the game has received positive ratings. The game currently maintains (as of October, 2019) a 4.8/5 rating on the Apple App Store from around 700,000 reviews, and holds a 4.4/5 rating on the Google Play Store from more than 300,000 reviews. Common praises of the game are often of its wide variety of content and addictive nature. Common criticisms meanwhile are generally directed at its heavy usage of ads and (mostly from Android users) the inferior level of features on Android compared to iOS.

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