Games I Used to Play: Sid Meier’s Civilization Series

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I thought I was done with gaming when my last desktop quit in 2011 and took away my Morrowind. Lol, little did I know. I’ve got a seven-year-old with an X-Box in my household now, and I’m the only other gamer in the house. Since he needs guidance and occasional help with boss fights, I’ve been spending some time with the video games lately.

Once a gamer, always a gamer, it seems.

I’ve thought for awhile that gaming is an area of pop culture that we aren’t tapping into properly with this blog. I mean really. Gaming ought to do well on any blog that lives primarily on comics, sci-fi, and zombies, right?

The problem up to this point with gaming posts has been the same problem I have with comics. All the games I am familiar with are so old, I can’t count on anyone caring about what I have to say about them. And comics contributors are WAY easier to find than gaming contributors.

I’m playing through some games right now that, if not exactly current, are things people will recognize. I’m not quite ready to start in on those today. Instead, I’ll tell you about some some antics I used to get up to with one of the Civilization games.

The Sid Meier’s Civilization series as a whole has consumed more of my free time than any other franchise in any media. It’s beat out Star Wars and Star Trek, and heck, even Tolkien, for my attention over the past 20 some-odd years. It’s arguably the series that got me hooked on gaming, so seems a good place to start.

The Civ games are turn-based strategy games that give you a high-level view of an entire civilization. You start with a settler, decide where to build your first city, then figure out how many military units and what improvements to build, etc. It’s the first fully-developed “god game” I ever encountered. The only thing that came close in the late 80s and early 90s was Populous, and Civ I made Populous look like computer checkers.

My overall favorite Civ game was Civilization 4, because I feel as though the creators finally got culture, religion, and forms of government right with that one. But the iteration of Civ that I played most (by far) was Civ II. Morrowind is the only game that’s ever even come close to touching the amount of time I’ve spent playing Civ II.

The feature of Civ II that gave it the ultimate replay value, even after I’d figured out how to win any game, on any difficulty, is this. It had a cheat mode which you could easily enable, and which allowed you to manipulate the Civ World in ponderous ways. And I never once used the cheat mode to win a game. I used it to do things to my games AFTER I’d won them. Here’s what I would do.

Set up a game on a pangaea map with as many civilizations as I could crowd in.

Conquer the world so that I ruled ALL the cities, except for one AI city on an island somewhere, which was surrounded by my navy so that I could see every ship coming in, and every ship going out of that city.

  1. Develop my cities and the land around them to the point of absurdity, so that by the 1940s or so, the world was filled with huge cites with solar plants and mass transits and stuff like that, surrounded by farmland and connected by railroads from one side of the world to the other.
  2. Dismantle all my nuclear weapons, collect my final score for the game, and save a copy for posterity, so I could go back later and see what the world looked like before I turned the cheat mode on.
  3. Turn the cheat mode on and take away the all the technologies from the glorious futuristic, world-spanning civilization I’d just built, reducing it to the stone age for the purposes of producing new units and city improvements.

Then I’d give ALL the technologies to the tiny one-city civilization I’d left standing on the island.

Give the one-city civilization a lot of military units, many of which were strategically placed to take the large civilization’s capital and several other cities in such a way as to cut that civilization in half.

Then force them into a state of war.

Of course, the small, well-armed civilization would take the capital of the large civilization and all the cities required to cut in in half. The large civilization’s capital would jump to the side of the line where it had the largest number cities. And then this would happen.

On the side of the line where the large civilization had the smallest number of cities, an ENTIRELY NEW civilization would spawn and break away from the big civ. It would enter the world as a neutral power. Its technology would be roughly halfway between the stone age and the space age, and it always had ten or 12 well-maintained cities, including a few ports.

Where once there was a monolithic hegemon and a one-city civ on an island, there were now three civilizations: A nuclear power with its capital on an island, a large military, and ten or twelve cities on a continent; a large, backward civ with 40 or more starving cities and just enough modern units to garrison them; and a civilization with 20 or so cities and early 20th Century technology.

From there, I’d let it run for days or weeks. I’d set it up so it didn’t pause at the end of the turn. Then switch the monitor off and let the computer run all day while I was at work, or all night while I was sleeping, and check it hours later. I referred to this activity as “ant farming.”

And without fail, this was the outcome.

I always ended up with a war-torn world of two or three powers perpetually at war, with the starvation that accompanies global warming and nuclear fallout reducing the population of the cities by a point or two per turn, until finally all the cities had a population of one, and no one had any units other than garrisons, and no way to produce new ones.

It would sometimes go through a phase where it looked like a 1984-type world for a day or two. But if I let it run long enough without intervening to refresh militaries and such, it always ended the same way.

Post-apocalyptic.

It was a little disturbing, but it was a whole lot of fun.

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Blogging A to Z Day 25: Video Games

If I’d discovered a way to get paid for playing video games when I was in my late teens, I would be one of the wealthiest people you would ever meet right now. For years, I spent most of my non-writing computer time playing video games. I haven’t been into gaming in years now because work, a grandson, and blogging doesn’t leave any time for them.

Here are the games I spent more time playing than the rest when I was a hardcore gamer.

  1. Morrowind – My favorite game ever.
  2. The early games in the Fallout franchise – Especially Fallout 2.
  3. Civilization Games – My favorites were Civ II and Civ IV.

Morrowind is one of those games you either love or hate. It’s the third installment of the Elder Scrolls series and the only one I ever played. It was released in 2002 and I picked it up year later at the used game shop. Fell in love with it immediately, and it’s pretty much the last game I ever played.

Several things make Morrowind special. It’s set on a island so huge and detailed it takes a single player months to explore. It has a linear storyline and quests, but you don’t have to actually complete any quests or the storyline to enjoy the game. And the game doesn’t end once you finish the main quest. It’s basically a huge sandbox that allows you to do pretty much anything you want.

It has an excellent system for creating custom spells, crafting magic items, and making potions. And it’s one of the easiest games to modify that I have ever encountered. The modding community gave this game a lot more longevity than it would otherwise have had. Want a huge palace or a companion to travel with you? There are mods for that, and for just about anything else you can think of.

Fallout is set on a post-apocalyptic earth which was laid waste by nuclear war in the 1950s. The first game begins 100 years after the war. The player character has grown up in an underground vault, is given a quest which requires him to venture above ground, which is now a wasteland peopled by bandits, mutants, and paramilitaries.

The Fallout wasteland is one of my favorite settings ever. This series is distinctive for its striking iconography and darkly humorous storylines. The first Fallout was simple, and too short, but I remember thinking at the time (1988) it came out that I’d never seen anything quite like it. Here’s the intro to Fallout 2, voiced by Ron Perlman, to give you a sense of what this world is like.

The Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise has probably gotten more of my time than any other. I played these games off-and-on from 1991, when the first one was released, until about four years ago when I stopped gaming. These are turn-based strategy games in which you build cities, use them to produce units to defend your civilization and build more cities. The game begins at the 4000 BC and runs to 2050 in most versions.

You can win civilization in several ways: by sending a spaceship to Alpha Centauri, by total military conquest, by domination — which means ruling a certain percentage of the world’s population and territory — or by being ahead in points when the game ends at 2050. You can play on randomly generated maps of various sizes, and choose the number of opponents to play against. My favorite thing to do was upload a pre-generated map of the actual earth and play with as many opponents as possible, because that makes for a long, interesting game of shifting alliances.

I could go on and on about civilization, but I’m already over my word count for an A to Z posts. So, what about you? Ever been into gaming? What are some of your favorites?