Tag Archives: Video Games

I Should Write More Stuff…And Civ

30 Oct

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on this blog (or any blog, for that matter).  But to keep my writing skills in check, I’ve decided I’m gong to make it a point to write something every week.  At least five-hundred words long.  The current word count I have is fifty-one, so I’m a tenth of the way there already.  If you’re looking for something insightful or inspiring, you may want to look somewhere else.  Otherwise, strap in and enjoy.

The first post I’m making today is super experimental, and I’m not even sure what I want to write about.  Over the course of this blog, I guess I’ll have to come up with something engaging that I can talk on and on about, and Heaven knows there are things that I love to discuss.  Since this blog also serves as a kind of journal, I guess it might get pretty personal.  But today is not that day.

So with all that said, what am I going to talk about today?  The pressure of picking a really good topic for my first post is palpable; I can feel the failure creeping up my spine like an icy gust already.  But I digress.  Let’s talk about something I know well and like a lot.  That being Sid Meyer’s Civilization.

First, a little background.  Way back when, in the golden age of my childhood, my mom, my younger brother Andrew (who deserves his own post someday), were at a TJ Maxx somewhere in Staten Island.  My mom, true to her spending habits, was looking for deals on clothes.  Now for those of you not in the know, TJ Maxx is a department store that deals mostly with clothes, but often contains furniture, kitchenware, and the like.  It’s kind of like Macys, but without the brand name recognition, or size, or customer base, or quality (Ha ha kidding TJ Maxx please don’t sue).

Anyways, in a corner near the back, TJ Maxx had a small, wooden bin that for some reason contained discount computer games.  THis was around 2000, so they were mostly CDs in jewel cases in cardboard boxes.  My brother Andrew rummaged through the mismatched and disorganized pile of games and came across one that must’ve caught his fancy.  It was called Civilization III.  As a side note, it was actually a multiplayer expansion, and we would wind up getting the real game some time later, but that’s not really the point.

And so Civilization came to our home, and the first domino falls.  But despite my obvious love for history and the series today, I had no interest in the game.  Civilization, as far as I could tell, was just another game that my brother Andrew (and at this point my older brother) would use as an excuse to tie up our laptop.

The fact that we played it on a laptop was important.  Because one day, while we were on vacation, we had nothing to do in our hotel room.  I forget the circumstances, but we must’ve been waiting for something or have just done something.  All we had was a television with the same channels, an old Nintendo 64 system that cost 6.99 an hour to play, and the laptop that my family brought with us.  But it was in that hotel room, in a nameless city, on a vacation I probably can’t remember for any other reason (sorry mom and dad) that I tried Civilization for the first time.  And, to borrow the colloquialism, I was hooked.

I realized that by now I’ve talked a lot about Civilization, but never really talked…about Civilization.  Civilization (and the subsequent games in the series) is a game about building and maintaining, what else, a civilization.  Each game has a selection of real civilizations from history, like America, Russia, China, and the like.  You are put in command of one of these civilizations, and it’s up to you to build your empire, from it’s humble beginnings in the stone age, to glory and fame in the information age and beyond.

Each game, of course, contains more than one civilization, and you are competing against each of them to ensure victory.  Most Civilization games have several ways you can win.  You may wish to focus on developing your nation’s science, and be the first Civilization to reach the edge of the galaxy.  Or perhaps you wish to become the most culturally dominant civilization in the world, to the point where your civ’s name is recognized anywhere.  Or, my personal favorite, your civilization establishes it’s supremacy through sheer military might, using your mighty armies to silence all opposition.

Now, over a decade later, I’m still playing Civ.  Heck, I probably play more than my brother now (side note: he’s still better though).  During the process of writing this post, I’ve been wondering why I like that game series so much, and what is it about Civilization that I find so alluring.  For simplicity’s sake, I’ve narrowed it down to three main factors:

  1.  The History:  This one’s probably the easiest to see.  Though when I was a kid, I couldn’t care less about all the facts behind the scenes of the game, I think Civilization has worked on me the other way around.  The game is what actually jump-started my love of history.  Civilization allows me to experience some of these cultures and times through new eyes.
  2. The Problem Solving:  Civilization is a turn-based strategy game, meaning that it works like a board game.  You take your turn, and then each of your opponents takes theirs, one by one.  This has important implications in terms of game play.  You don’t need fast reaction time in order to effectively play Civilization.  This in turn means the way you tackle problems in Civilization are vastly different than say, the Total War series, another historical strategy game.  Each turn allows me to think out the problems my Civilization is facing, and what my best options are to counter them.  I like that I can sit in front of my computer, not touching anything for ten minutes, as I ponder what new social policy or science would be best to adopt.  There’s still pressure, but the pressure doesn’t come from the fact that I need to act in 3 seconds.
  3. The Power Trip:  Alright, this is probably the biggest one, and the reason I play a lot of games (coughSkyrimcough), but I think Civilization is what started it.  I like being in complete control of my own nation.  I like the total domination that comes with it, being able to use my resources to influence the sway of an entire (virtual) world.  I like seeing my armies rolling into enemy land, ready to conquer those that dare oppose me, or to liberate those that have been wronged.  Playing Civilization puts me on an imaginary throne, and allows me to dictate the future of a nation according to my whims.

I’m still playing Civilization, and in all likelihood I’ll probably be playing it today,  It’s a great game that allows you to shape the course of history however you want, and if it sounds like anything at all you would like to check out, I highly recommend that you do.  The game is for sale on Steam, and it’s a must-buy from me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go conquer the Greeks.  They’re domination of the United Nations ends today,