CO Springs company’s online game shows teenagers how choices affect their futures

Filed under: Education and Educational Services,online |

Does anyone out there remember playing the game of Life? Odds are, if you picked “go to school,” you ended up with a lot more play money than the person across from you who picked “hang out all day.” Remember the “poor house?” TrueLifeInteractive.com is playing the game for real with truly live people, showing them how their choices will affect their future, and helping them to set realistic goals.

Featured last May in The Colorado Springs Business Journal, True Life was a hands-on workbook and chart, with the web site just barely up and running. Then founder Ed Kolerich and Internet and Web Developer Bob Berry got busy, and today orders for the program are coming in from all over the country.

Colorado Springs company’s True Life Interactive Web site largely caters to teenagers, but has found that their learning tools also help those adapting to a new community, people recently released from the prison system and others who are thinking about a lifestyle change. It is required reading for some juvenile offenders. Adult supervision is highly recommended for optimum results, as well as the involvement of mentors and mock job interviews to help the person adapt to the real side of their chosen profession.

It works like this. First, you purchase an online account (Berry stated that he recently placed 30 orders for a teacher’s classroom in Ohio). Then, you’re gently guided through a brief “how-to” tutorial on using the Internet, and walked around the True Life Chart of different lifestyles. After you’ve chosen the career you want, the kind of car you want to drive, where you want to live and the great wardrobe you’ll be sporting, reality bites. TrueLife adds up how much all that high-flying lifestyle will cost, and then throws in the grown-up true-life shockers like taxes and insurance. It then tells you what you’re going to have to do to get from here to there, like further your education or adopt a very rich uncle. The beginning choices you can make include financial commitments, personal commitments, physical health and mental health. From there, the paths you can “click on” get copious and intricate, just like real life.

The chart is where it gets interesting. When you pick the goal that you want to attain, the chart turns and shows you the consequences. Then, after another choice, it goes on until those choices reach their natural conclusion. One of those conclusions is “No Future.” Having the user envision the lifestyle they want is one thing, but keeping that vision is another.

“Teenagers change their minds all the time,” said Berry. “That’s why we keep the account open. They can switch whenever they want.” Berry also added that because of the intimate nature of the information, TrueLife tries hard to ensure privacy, while letting an adult or parent monitor their progress and not their secret desires.

The Chart also tells you what not to do. You want to take drugs? Spin the wheel and your dreams of a three-story Colonial end up on a park bench or in a jail cell. Don’t pay your bills? Welcome to the poor house.

Conceived from the experience of trying to guide three teenage boys toward a better life, Kolerich came up with the workbook and exercises to help his family. After a chance encounter with Berry, the two thought the Internet would be the perfect media tool, and, voila´ — TrueLife Interactive was born. You can log on to TrueLife at http://TrueLifeInteractive.com to join their self-guided program or to just check it out.

If you could do it all over again, would you make the same career decisions? My choices on the TrueLife Chart led me down a completely different path. Regardless to say, it wasn’t journalism. But then, I’m older now, and think differently than I did at eighteen (I believe it was veterinarian, ballet dancer or commander of a starship). I may not be an international spy, but things are, well, pretty just okay.

But then, that’s life.