5 Reasons Why You Should Play Civilization

Box art for Civilization IV.
Box art for Civilization IV. | Source

"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, 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 too should be playing Civilization, 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.”

Screenshot of gameplay, from Civilization V.
Screenshot of gameplay, from Civilization V. | Source

1. An Empire-Building Experience that Doesn’t Stress

Empire-building games can be addictive and enjoyable. However, some gamers are kept out of the genre simply because they lack reflexes that are fast enough. I’m talking about Real Time Strategic (RTS) titles that require you to keyboard mash with lightning fast fingers. Fail to do so, and your empire wouldn’t even survive 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 have a coffee, a bun, and maybe even reference tomes beside you, while you meticulously plan every aspect of your empire. 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, you are sure to find this gameplay system attractive. This alone might be enough reason for you to start on the series.

2. Civilization is a Global Learning Experience

Each game in the 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 a technological or artistic advancement.

In fact, the potential of the series to educate is so strong, several academic institutions used the games as teaching tools in the classroom. While there is debate over the efficacy of this implementation, I tend to think the series is well capable of encouraging students to learn about a variety of 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 need to.

The complex technological trees in each game encourages players to read up and learn.
The complex technological trees in each game encourages players to read up and learn. | Source

3. It has Epic Music

Civilization is famous for its music, but not quite 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 also famous for its use of classical and ethnic music. The newer episodes could all be considered as extensive samplers of world music.

For example, in Civilization IV, classical gems by Mozart, Bach, Brahms and Dvořák accompanied the Renaissance and Industrial Ages segments of the game.

In the fifth installment, 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 aren’t either of these, it is still an atmospheric introduction to world music. On top of it being an unforgettable gaming experience. To understand what I mean, 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 kind of thrill you will get, playing and listening to Civilization. You get to enjoy this thrill each time the music kicks in, at precisely the right moment.

The First Ever ...

Baba Yetu won the Grammy for 'Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)' in 2011. It was the first music composition for a game to win a Grammy award. "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 evocative. For 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 thus become 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. I tend to feel though, that it’s a good introduction to the complexities of the human race. If anything, it encourages you to be patient and strategic, when trapped in such nasty situations. At the same time, who knows? You might just remember a terrible episode from the game the next time a friend or colleague unexpectedly turns against 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.

The prickly question of how to manage population size is a recurring challenge in the games.
The prickly question of how to manage population size is a recurring challenge in the games. | Source

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 Civilization, there are literally hundreds of mods found on different platforms. Many of these are high quality and very well scripted.

Additional leaders. Additional civilizations. All sorts of battle units, tech-trees, improvements, wonders, and so 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 own favourite world leader to the list and seeing how he or she fares against other giants? How about fashioning yourself into a tyrant, and seeing how long you would last? The structure and capabilities of the series truly make every session unique and unpredictable. Is this not sufficient reason for you to start indulging in this addictive world of “one more turn?” Is this not reason enough for you to join this empire building quest that stretches across the entire history of mankind?

How would you fair against the most powerful leaders known to mankind?
How would you fair against the most powerful leaders known to mankind?

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Comments 4 comments

ReViewMeMedia profile image

ReViewMeMedia 5 weeks ago

Sure you don't stress in this game, until Gandhi gets nukes and uses them on you!

CYong74 profile image

CYong74 5 weeks ago from Singapore Author

Actually, Gandhi or India never bothered me too much whether in IV, Revolution or V.

The one I really hate is Casimir. You know you're in a sucky time the moment he's beside you in Civ 5.

Cheeky Kid profile image

Cheeky Kid 5 weeks ago from Milky Way

I've played Civilization V and it's so vast it's time-consuming to grasp everything. It's pretty fun to play though. I'm actually thinking of getting Civilization VI.

CYong74 profile image

CYong74 5 weeks ago from Singapore Author


You should go for Civ VI next month! Firaxis being ... Firaxis, I'm confident they would churn out another classic, with the flaws of V addressed.

As for the time consumption, heh. That's unavoidable. I was so engrossed when playing V I "vanished" for two weeks. My friends thought I was in hospital.

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