The Trouble with Civilization

A lot of the things you’ll read about Civilization concern its conception of history, progress, its meta-narrative and so on. I just came across a nice piece by Dianne Carr at the University of London that is rather refreshing in its approach, and reminds us that what players get out of a game is not necessarily what its creators put into it…. the piece is called ‘The Trouble with Civilization‘ and I’ve taken the liberty of copying its opening below… you should read it!

“What follows is an exploration of meaning, information and pleasure in Sid Meier’s Civilization III. Various theorists, including Poblocki (2002) and Douglas (2002) have argued that games within the Civilization series perpetrate a reductive folk-history that positions Western-style technologically orientated progress as ‘the only logical development’ for humanity (Poblocki 2002: 168). Such critiques are warranted, but they share a tendency to focus on the game’s rules and pseudo-historical guise, at the expense of its more playful, less quantifiable aspects. The intention here is not to redeem Civilization or save it from its critics. The point is, rather, to examine aspects of the criticism that has calcified around the series to date, and question some of the conclusions that have been drawn.

Given the complexity and volume of information in this game, and the fact that games are played, and re-played, it would be quixotic to pursue a single, definitive account of the meaning of Civ III….”