5 Reasons Why You Should Play Sid Meier's "Civilization"
"One more turn ...”
These are the three words Civilization players have obsessed over since the launch of the series in 1991. Praised as one of the most ground-breaking video games series ever, 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 also ensures that you too will 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 this joy because they lack lightning fast reflexes. By this, I’m referring to 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 Sid Meier’s 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, and another coffee, before executing your next killer move; there is never any time constraint. Irrelevant as this might sound, I think it is a huge attraction for gamers who wish to compete on tactics, and not how fast one can type or mouse-click. If you’re the sort 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 too. This alone might be enough reason for you to start playing the series.
2. Civilization Is a Global Learning Experience
Each episode in this series is a global learning experience in two ways.
You are introduced to a myriad of cultures and historical characters from around the globe. At the same time, you also get to enjoy the titbits of information regarding science, arts, history, and culture.
To make the whole learning experience “fun,” newer Civilization titles also 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 Civilization as teaching tools in the classroom. While there is debate over the efficacy of these implementations, I personally believe playing the series at least encourages students to research different topics.
In my case, the technology trees in the end game stages piqued my interest in modern production methods, to the extent I started reading scientific journals regularly. To share, this was something I have never done throughout my entire academic life. Thanks to a few late night world battles though, I finally became a more knowledgeable person.
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 opening theme Baba Yetu from Civilization IV, the series is more famous for its use of classical and ethnic music. This is to the extent that all newer episodes could all be considered as extensive samplers of world music.
To give some examples, in Civilization IV, classical masterpieces by Mozart, Brahms and Dvořák accompanied the Renaissance and Industrial Age segments of the game. A perfect introduction of the European musical styles of those eras.
In Civilization V, a more ethnic approach was adopted. 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.”
To put it in another way, all newer Civilization games are world music festivals. For students of music, especially younger ones, it’s an immersive learning experience too. To enjoy a taste of what I mean by these, 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’d likely experience is the exact kind of thrill you will enjoy when playing and listening to the Civilization games.
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 will sound unattractive to some gamers. After all, don’t we play video games to escape the woes of the world?
That said, the right mix of reality and fantasy can make a gaming experience far more memorable. In the case of Sid Meier's Civilization, I’d say the developers even got the elusive balance right. Reality is never too far away, but neither does it depress. At least, never too badly.
To go into specifics, such realities are presented in the games as “unhappiness” and diplomacy challenges. In the case of the former, cities suffer from ever-increasing unhappiness as they grow in size. The end stage of each game is therefore always a challenge of maintaining a large population for economics and defense, while doing everything possible to keep citizens contented.
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 neighbor who was your ally for centuries might be bribed into an alliance against you. To win the game, you must be ready for all such sudden disasters.
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, doesn’t it teach us 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 and 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 this series, 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 and on.
Such mods empower Civilization games with incredible re-playability, which in turn translate to 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 favorite 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 Civilization 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.”
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Kuan Leong Yong