Civilization PC Retrospective
April 3, 2010
By Caleb Newby
A look back at the game that gave birth to many nations
In honor of the recently announced Civilization V coming this Fall (hopefully), we wanted to take a look back at how this whole thing started. Welcome the year 1991. For a bit of perspective of where we were in video gaming in the early 90s here’s a refresher. Street Fighter II just hit arcades, Nintendo released the Super Nintendo, and Squaresoft was only up to Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II for those of us using the old school North American numbering).
What Were its Cultural Impacts and/or Importance?
Ask a random console gamer (the most numerous type of gamer out there) about Sid Meier’s Civilization and you’ll likely be met with a blank stare. Many have no idea the wide range of influence Sid Meier’s creation has had on the gaming culture. This is the game that gave birth to the popular cry of “one more turn,” a mantra repeated ad nauseum by sleep-deprived gamers left baffled by where the night went and why the sun was out so early.
Reviews for the game were nearly universal in praise of Civilization’s uniqueness and addictiveness. Game reviewing was a different business back then, but a little amateur sleuthing reveals several awards and high marks for the game. While most things in life need to withstand the test of time to determine their true significance, Civilization resonated with both critics and fellow game designers as a revolutionary step in what a video game can be and what it can do.
What Areas of Gaming did it Advance?
Civilization is the torch bearer of the 4X genre of video games. The mechanics of explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate have been copied and modified numerous times. Fellow turn-based strategy games such as Master of the Orion and Galactic Civilizations are obviously indebted to the original Civilization, but so are games of other genres, particularly those under the real-time strategy umbrella such as Age of Empires and StarCraft.
It also stands as a monument that addictive gameplay and an appealing concept can compete with twitch reflex games and graphic violence. Believe it or not, Civilization can also be used to teach. Covertly educating gamers around the world on the history of humankind, Civilization has been much more than a simple piece of entertainment. While that is certainly its core not enough can be said about how it’s made history exciting.
Plus, I’m pretty sure I was the first kid in my class who knew what an aqueduct was.
Does it Stand the Test of Time?
Any game pushing 20-years old is going to have its age glaring. For as profound and revolutionary a game it’s near impossible to want to go back to it for anything beyond a short term nostalgia trip. Antiquated graphics and a top-down overhead view with chunky controls are hard to look past with modern-day advancements, while the base it set down for addictive gameplay has been honed by each successive sequel.
But much like its gameplay featuring the passage of time, the original Civilization has been used as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Just like humanity’s progression through the Bronze Age to medieval times up into the modern era, Civilization is like the technological advancement of The Alphabet. Easily taken for granted now, but without it, we wouldn’t be where we are today.