Sorta-Game Pile: Civilisation 1

After a long conversation with a friend last night about computer piracy and promotion of games, I came to the conclusion that piracy – of abandonware in particular – is not necessarily a fundamental evil when we’re talking about distributing/sharing videogame news. With that in mind I thought I’d do a Game Pile about a game I have been playing a lot of lately – Civilisation 1.

I thought that I could have an interesting chat about how Civilisation is a pretty fun little game that I mostly like for its absurdity. First, the game has this really rosy-cheeked optimism about human cultures as playing pieces wedded to a lot of game-system ridiculous impracticality. In Civilisation you can play the leader of the Zulus and develop robotics before the French do, and that’s just because… well, you made ‘right choices’ or got a bit lucky or something like that? Which is of course, ridiculous bullshit.

Thing is, I wanted to write an article about the preposterousness (which is fun) and the imposed political values (which aren’t so much) in Civilisation, but Errant Signal already did:

This is more of a broad overview of the later Civilisation games. Not something I know (though I am trying those games out!), so I won’t comment too much on that. In the case of Civilisation 1 there’s a few interesting – amusing, really – assumptions as part of game tech. For example, the use of a tech tree that you fill up unit-by-unit works out okay for games like Starcraft 2 where the development is focused and the discoveries are highly precise. But in Civilisation you can somehow have a centralised multi-city culture that trades with one another and makes major public works projects and has a unified, coordinated military, before the discovery of laws, currency, trade or writing. That’s goofy and I find that funny.

On the other hand, Civilisation 1 also has the rotten implication that if you’re not one of a short list of cultures, you’re not really a civilisation. And America is one of those cultures, despite being so much younger than all the other ones. What were Americans doing in 4,000 BC, when the game starts? Nothing. You can maybe make a case that there were British people then, but really, even the idea of ‘nations’ is a modern one.

Still, I do enjoy Civilisation 1, even though it’s a monstrous raftload of cultural implication.


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