March 14, 2007

Civilisation


The Weekly Standard just published a tribute to the computer game, Civilisation. As someone who has played many versions of this computer game, I acknowledge it can consume one's life but it is also one of the more interesting computer games around and does genuinely have some educational content. People often knock computer games from afar but I think civilisation gives the lie to that. I'm not sure about its history- but introducing concepts like feudalism, democracy and communism to a kid must be useful, no matter how problematic the definitions. There is another aspect though to the game which is its complexity, because its so complex it stimulates I think people's strategical sense- especially kids of a young age. It also helps teach them hopefully that politics isn't just left and right but is a bit more extensive than that. Having said that like all good things- if you thought politics was game play you'd be on to a nasty shock and as to the definitions of concepts, personally Marx is much more fun than managing a communist dictatorship. Overall though this is a good game- it teaches people things- its worth playing and isn't mindless, it can be addictive- you have been warned. Most of all its great fun.

(Apologies to the Inky Circus, but the topic for this had to be nicked from them- it was too good.)

LATER Matthew Sinclair has reminded me in the comments that he posted on this a couple of weeks ago- his article is well worth reading too and is here.

9 comments:

edmund said...

i agree it's a good game though i think it'd be much funner to give peopl freedom to tinker more with the concepts- i wsa much more intested in creating "laternatie histories" than working wihtin the framework of the deisgners dodgy assumptoins (communsim reduces corruption?)

james higham said...

It's a real Gracchi thing. Incidentally, you'd be aware of the significance of tomorrow, wouldn't you, Tiberius?

Matthew Sinclair said...

I posted on this a week or so ago (keep an eye on The American Scene...) and focussed on the game theory. I thought the complexity was particularly interesting as well. The number of possible strategies must be truly staggering.

The first time I upped the difficulty and tried to play as a democracy and simply out-earn my enemies instead of charging around with armies making a mess was a great growing up moment in my mid-teens.

Ian said...

Apologies for expanding on a comment I left over at Matthew's, but one big problem I have with the game is that it does seem to have an inbuilt ideological bias: Democracy offers the highest productivity and zero corruption levels ("Zero, Lord Levy?"). There seems no attempt to model alternative modern political philosophies, let alone make them viable in terms of game play - Socialism? Nope. Collectivism? Nope. Anarchy is portrayed as the absence of government, rather than being a philosophy in its own right. With that in mind, I have found the best strategy (at least in versions 1-3, can't comment about 4) to establish democracy as early as possible. Intriguingly, however, both Fundamentalism and Communism seem good options if you have a war to be waged. Idealising the "democracies" of the modern West?

But, yes, it is a thought-provoking and deeply immersive game, and it has claimed more hours of my life than I care to calculate. I'll stop now, before I get onto Transport Tycoon...

Ian said...

James, I trust that's not a threat ;)

Gracchi said...

I think I agree with you all- the inbuilt bias is definitely there and I notice it, for example it would be interesting to see more government forms- Empire as distinguished from monarchy or despotism. But good points guys.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Ha! Niall Ferguson the Video Game would rock.

Robbie said...

Computer Games? Educational tools? Surely Championship Manager, with it's emphasis on 'searching and sorting a large database using filters and variables', would be a more relevant candidate for educating today's youth for a future in Admin.

Gracchi said...

Robbie I can see what you mean- only Champ does give one delusions of grandeur- you see whenever I play it Leeds win the quadruple- and its too hard then to return to the real world.