Civilization PC Retrospective

April 3, 2010

Civilization
PC
Retrospective
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.