Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ode to Sid Meier's Civilization

Ug, I've been so bad about my blog and worst of all, I have no real reason to have not updated it before now. I've been unemployed since 30 August and I've been doing random stuff, but not writing. Mostly, I've been playing video games, cleaning out closets, and (re)watching stuff as I waited/applied for stuff. I started a Top Ten Movies but it wasn't coming out to how I liked it. I couldn't think how to write about it.

Then I got inspired.

One of the games I've been playing is Sid Meier's Civilization V. It is probably one of my favorite, go-to games. I know, it's not super glamorous or super exciting (Although the music is full of win as is the voices provided by the late Leonard Nimoy) but it never fails me. When I want to be busy, it keeps me busy. When I'm down in the dumps, it pulls me out of the dumps.

Outside it being a historical/political game, it is kind of odd how I could like a sandbox game as much as I do. Mostly, when I start a Sandbox game and the directions are, "GO FORTH! DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!" I have no idea what to do with myself. I'm so overwhelmed and end up usually shutting off the game not to play it again.

Really, I'm kind of like this

But I can play Civilization. I can waste an entire weekend playing it. It is not like my other favorite games in which I have to be in the mood or it is that time of the year (as I mentioned with Final Fantasy before). The thing that is absolutely amazing about Civilization is every time you play, it will be different. Even if you try to replicate it and when you use the same settings for each game, you will not be able to play the same game. You can employ the same strategy, sure, but you are playing in a constantly shifting world and have to adapt. You may decide going in that you're a pacifist and won't get into battle but you never know. The game could generate a war mongerer neighbor and you will have to build up your defenses. Or you may decide early on, you'll play for science victory but you aren't near any resources you need to build up for science and instead find yourself trading and bam, you won the game by commerce.

Let me back up. To newbs, Civilization is a series of games created by Sid Meier. The game is a simulation. You play one of the empires of current and times past. The game puts you on a map with several other civilizations with different personalities and goals. You gather science, resources, build/manage cities, build/manage militaries (if that is your jam), engage in diplomacy/espionage, cultivate culture, building world wonders, and maybe spread religion to become the best civilization of all time. There is a lot going on in this game and you have to balance each tenant to stay afloat sometimes.

There are several ways to win. Science Victory is accomplished when you build a space shuttle heading to Alpha Centauri before another civilization. Diplomatic Victory is you convince the other civilizations to vote you the head of the United Counsel. Military Victory is if you capture three or four capitals. Commerce Victory is if your treasury reaches a certain amount. Cultural Victory is when you have the coolest culture and influence the other civilizations.

Now admittedly, I may start a game and never finish. Or I'll start one and I'm so not pleased where I started out in the map, I'll restart. Sometimes I hate when I do that because when you fight through the shitty start, it is just that more rewarding. Like in the current game I'm working through, I started off surrounded by Silver which is great later but in the beginning it is a death sentence. I worked through it and now I'm getting some good trades.

I think what I like the most about Civilization is you're seeing history between the lines. Yes, the game is technical but my imagination often takes over in some spots and I form narratives. I guess, fan fiction? I don't know. Like for instance, in the last game I finished, I played as Rome. On the map I played on, Rome was on one side of a mountain range. Mountains, you cannot cross unless you have aircraft. There was one valley that I could pass through and through the entrance, I started the city of Ravenna. The ways city work is you have a small radius to start with and then it spreads out as your culture grows, indicating where you have influence. Culture has difficulty crossing mountains. So there was no culture in the valley pass and no matter what I did, I couldn't spread it through. A road was built though and caravans constantly zipped in and out. And sometimes Barbarian villages would pop up and I'd have to clear them. All I could think was what the story was here. People would have to pass through no-man's land -- a jungle and surrounded by mountains -- to get to the capital. The even more amusing part is other civilizations would try to take Ravenna so they could get to Rome. The only other way was by sea. As a result, Ravenna became a huge military city. I could pop out units so incredibly fast. In my mind, I saw the Ravenna militias seeing themselves protectors of the Capital.

Except Roman?

Maybe another reason I like Civilization is simply the fact that in a world like ours, it is nice to play a game in which you have control over the world. In fact, earlier today, I had a conversation on Facebook with an online friend from Malaysia. She shared an article about the Red Shirts (a racist faction) and how she found it upsetting. Then, I replied with 'smh' and we got ranting about political stuff in both our countries. Finally, she decided she needed a break from the world, and she would nap. I said, I would play Civilization. I think that is also part of why I love the game.

I would talk more about this game. Like the weird lore surrounding it (like Warmonger Gandhi or I've been playing the same Civilization II game for 10 years) or how much I find Civilization mimics (although sometimes simplistically) how real world politics work.

It is either go to war or give money I don't have to Elizabeth II
But I will finish this post by saying, one day maybe I will not be like such a nice guy and play the game like an asshole and see where that gets me. Mary's usual strategy is put everything into Science, culture secondary. Make a huge military but just have it chilling. If someone attacks, MAKE THEM PAY and let them know don't interrupt me while I try to Science.

So I guess I play Civilization like Bruce Banner?

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