5 Reasons Why You Should Play Sid Meier's Civilization
"One more turn"... Three words Civilization players have obsessed over since the launch of the series in 1991. Praised as one of the most important video games of all times, Sid Meier’s Civilization offers the perfect blend of relaxation and thrill, learning and entertainment, for any player willing to invest a few (hundred) hours in it. Here are 5 reasons why you should be playing Civilization too, if you have yet to start. The same 5 reasons would also ensure that you quickly succumb to that irresistible craving for “one more turn.”
1. An Empire-Building Experience that Doesn’t Stress
Empire-building games are often addictive and enjoyable. However, some gamers are excluded from the joy because they lack lightning fast reflexes. I’m talking about Real Time Strategic (RTS) titles that require you to keyboard mash with super nimble fingers. Fail to do so, and your empire wouldn’t even make it beyond the prehistorical era.
Such reflexes are unnecessary in Civilization, which is turn-based. You have all the time in the world to contemplate, fiddle, and research before committing any decision. You can even have a coffee and bun while you mull over your next killer move. Irrelevant as this might sound, I think it is a huge pull for gamers who wish to compete on tactics, and not how fast one can type or mouse-click. If you’re the type who enjoys an accumulative competition of wit and strategy, similar to a game of chess, I’m sure you’d find this gameplay system attractive. This alone might be enough reason for you to start playing the series.
2. Civilization is a Global Learning Experience
Each game in the Sid Meier’s Civilization series is a global learning experience in two ways. You are introduced to a myriad of cultures and historical characters from around the globe. You also get to enjoy tidbits of information regarding science, arts, history, and culture.
And to make the whole learning experience “fun,” the newer games feature voiceovers by renowned personalities. In the fourth episode, Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, reads a representative quote each time your civilization gains an upgrade. In Civilization V, this was done by Morgan Sheppard.
In fact, the potential of the series to educate is so strong, several academic institutions have used the games as teaching tools in the classroom. While there is debate over the efficacy of these implementations, I tend to think the series is well capable of encouraging students to research about different topics. In my case, the technology trees in the end game stages piqued my interest in modern production methods. I started reading scientific journals regularly. This was something I have never done throughout my entire academic life. Even when there was a crucial need to.
3. Sid Meier's Civilization has Epic Music
Civilization is famous for its soundtrack, but not in the same way as games like Legend of Zelda or Castlevania. While it does have beloved original compositions, such as the Grammy award-winning Baba Yetu from Civilization IV, the series is more famous for its use of classical and ethnic music. To a great extent, the newer episodes could all be considered as extensive samplers of world music.
For example, in Civilization IV, classical masterpieces by Mozart, Brahms and Dvořák accompanied the Renaissance and Industrial Age segments of the game.
In Civilization V, a more ethnic approach was chosen. The leader of Brazil, Pedro II, had a soundtrack drawn from the Bossa Nova standard, Chega de Saudade. The Empress Supreme of China, Wu Zetian, was accompanied by the classical Chinese composition, “Gao Shan Liu Shui.”
For lovers of music, this is akin to a world festival. For students of music, especially younger ones, this is an immersion experience. Even if you are neither of these, the soundtracks are still atmospheric gateways into world music. To have a feel of what I mean by this, just find a recording of Dvořák’s Brave New World, Second movement, and listen to it with headphones. While doing so, imagine yourself before an expansive frontier, one full of danger and promise. The shivers you would experience is the exact kind of thrill you will enjoy when playing and listening to Civilization.
The First Ever ...
Baba Yetu won the Grammy Award for 'Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)' in 2011, the first game music composition to ever do so. "Baba Yetu" itself means "Our Father," and is the Swahili name for the Lord's Prayer.
Original Performance of Baba Yetu.
Renaissance Music in Civilization IV
4. Civilization Gives You a Taste of Real-World Grim Realities
This might not sound attractive to some gamers. After all, don’t we play games for entertainment?
Yet, the right balance of reality and fantasy can make a gaming experience far more memorable. In the case of Civilization, I would say the developers mostly got this balance right. Reality is never too far away. But it never depresses. At least, not too badly.
Specifically, such realities are presented in the games as “unhappiness” and diplomacy challenges. In the case of the former, cities suffer from increasing unhappiness as they grow in population. The end stage of each game is therefore always a challenge of maintaining a large population size for economics and defense, while doing everything possible to keep citizens contended.
In the case of diplomacy challenges, these usually manifest at the most unexpected moments. Strangers who have ignored you for hundreds of turns might suddenly declare war. A neighbour who was your ally for centuries might be bribed into an alliance against you. To win the game, you must be ready for all these.
Again, such mirroring of real-world crises might be too upsetting for some gamers. However, I think it is overall a great introduction to the complexities of the human race. If anything, it teaches you to be patient and strategic, and never to panic when confronted or frustrated. At the same time, who knows? You might just remember a terrible episode from the game the next time a friend or colleague backstabs you. What you learned from the game would then help you emerge from that betrayal unscathed. With a bit of skill, you might even emerge victorious.
5. There is a Huge, Active Community of Mods
For some gamers, the worth of a game is measured by the number of mods written by fans for it. In the case of Sid Meier’s Civilization, there are literally hundreds of mods found on different platforms. Many of these are elaborate and expertly scripted.
Additional leaders. Additional civilizations. All sorts of new battle units, tech-trees, improvements and wonders. The list goes on.
This empowers the games with incredible re-playability. Which in turns means fantastic worth for money. Just imagine, hundreds of leaders, each with unique strengths and weaknesses and personalities. How many ways of playing the games are there?
And if you have the necessary skills, you could make your own mods too. How about adding your favourite world leader to the list and seeing how he or she would fare against other giants? How about fashioning yourself into a tyrant, and seeing how long you would last? The way the series is designed, every session has the potential to be unique and unpredictable. In my opinion, this alone is more than enough reason for you to start indulging in this addictive world of “one more turn.”
© 2016 Kuan Leong Yong