The Games I Love(d): Civilization

We always had a computer in our house growing up, but until I was old enough to use it responsibly, it was locked away in the forbidden zone known as the basement. In hindsight, I understand the reasoning, computers are incredibly finicky machines, and an immature hand can do a lot of damage to one of those incredibly user-unfriendly machines from the late 80s, early 90s. But I still hated it as a kid.

I was 8 (almost 9!) when Sid Meyer's Civilization was released to the world, and it was one of the first gamer games that my dad let me play after I had proven myself mature enough to handle Space Quest and Oregon Trail. I was hooked immediately - I had always had an inquisitive mind and was always fascinated by the idea of strategy and planning out alternatives. I really enjoyed figuring out the best way to tackle a game; getting to the solution was a big part of the fun for me.

There was no single answer to Civlization - you could win via multiple methods just as easily as one another, and each of the leaders offered new powers to help shape the strategies you would use during the game. This sparked a latent tinder in my mind that would burn brightly as I delved more deeply into the concepts of strategy and gaming. This was before the Card Game craze began; and while Warhammer was going strong, I wouldn't be introduced to tabletop wargaming for a few more years yet.

This was the first strategy game I ever played (if you don't count playground games such as kickball and mister wolf), and I immediately discovered a preferred method of playing. I never enjoyed the direct combat route, preferring instead to win via culture. Combat oriented victory felt too simple to me - not that it is easier by any means, but it was more straightforward; and I always preferred a more subtle approach to gaming.

Bred for ... greatness?

Strategy games were in my blood - my father's basement was filled with Empires in Arms, Advanced Squad Leader, and other token-based war games; and I never felt that was unique or odd in any way. My dad wasn't a normal dad, and I think that he spent a lot of my life trying to engage with a son who didn't self-identify as a gamer nerd. I tried a lot of sports and more normative extra-curricular activites growing up; I played baseball (poorly), piano (poorly), drums (poorly), and participated in Tae Kwon Do and Wrestling in high school (both poorly). I was in denial right up until University.

In first year at UNB, I discovered that it wasn't shameful to be an unapologetic geek. I was reintroduced to D&D, Magic, and Warhammer during those years; but the game that I never apologized for playing was Civ. It never felt like a 'geek' game, despite the fact that it was always among the most strategically rich video games on the market. I never lost touch with Civilization even during long stretches of time when I only played one or two games.

The times, they are a changin'

Things have changed, over the past 14 years since I graduated High School; I play more games, but I have lost touch with my Video Game origins - I no longer play Civ consistently, I don't play Sim City, and I only recently picked up Diablo 3 (and only for the co-op gaming potential with Kris). As an adult, I find that I have a lot more on my plate between a full-time job and running this website (another seemingly full-time job), I just can't play games as much as I did in my twenties.

Let me ask you a question. When you were in College/University (I'm assuming you are a gamer, if you are reading this), did you find that you would stay up until 3 in the morning playing card and role-playing games in the student lounge? Did you get to know the security guards by name because they would be kicking you out of the Student Union Building every night as they desperately tried to close up and get some sleep? My friends and I were those nerds - we would try to hide from the guards if we were in the middle of a really fantastic adventure as the clock neared 2am.

I had three courses over my 5.5 years at UNB that began at 8:30 in the morning. I passed two of them, and only because I had a very close friend who was in attendance for every lecture and passed me the notes. I was not a studious tweener; I preferred to hang out with friends, and flirt with pretty girls rather than attend lectures and involve myself in co-cirruculars. I had a habit of attending class with a voice recorder and a pillow - I was that guy.

This was really the genesis of who I would become in my thirties, I spend long hours huddled over my computer in the dark of night editing videos, cutting podcasts, and sometimes - RARELY- I would be playing a game of Civ. And then I drink 5 cups of coffee in the morning and trudge my way to work for ten am. I wonder why I'm always so exhausted and grumpy... maybe there is a connection I'm not seeing.

But back on topic, I play Civ when I need a quick gamer fix because it scratches that itch I get. It makes me think long-term even if I have no intention of playing the game long enough to finish. It makes me consider alternatives even when the consequences of my actions would not take effect until I am long dont playing. I liken it to strategy practice - being forced to think in a strategy-game mindset is a lot like doing reps in the gym.

In all of its totality, Civilization is one of the foundational games in my life. Civ was the game that developed my strategic mind, and it molded me into a particular gamer - if my first video game love had been Doom or Wolfenstein instead, I might have been more of an action gamer in the way Kris is - but the fact that my first experience in 'real' gaming was a strategy with the depth and breadth of Civilization created the kid who would spend countless hours playing Warhammer, Magic, Middle Earth, and Dungeons and Dragons.

I really credit Civ with putting me on the path I tread - the friends that I have , the games that I play, even the way I approach my job are all in large part because of how much I embraced Civlization as a kid. I don't know that I become a strategy gamer without it, and I thank Sid Meyer every day because of the amazing game he made that really imprinted itself on a young kid's mind.

Until next time, thanks for reading and always be gaming,

Matt

"Civilizationboxart" by MicroProse. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Civilizationboxart.jpg#/media/File:Civilizationboxart.jpg