My article on the use of video games in the environmental humanities classroom will be coming out soon from Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities and so I thought this Thursday would be the perfect day to Throwback to a pair of my favorite games: Civilization II and Alpha Centauri.
To me, Civilization II is the best iteration of the series. The graphics looked great and there was a level of complexity available that went beyond the original, but there wasn’t SO MANY new features that they became difficult to balance. I like complex simulations, but once they start to feel like a job, I quickly lose patience. I played a bit of Civ III and Civ IV but I never bothered with V.
Note: You can play a freeware version of Civ II for free in your browser here.
One of my favorite things to do with Civ II was to enter into the map editor and see if I could create environments that were more or less conducive to certain types of societies. Looking back on it now, I realize I was trying to reverse engineer the algorithms in the “black box” of the programming that were inaccessible to me as a player. But at the time, it felt like a machine that allowed me to glimpse possible alternate pasts.
Alpha Centauri, on the other hand, was a means to generate potential futures. I loved this game for many reasons, not least of all because of the buried plot lines about the planet itself and the ability of humanity to potentially transcend the human body (it took me so many play-throughs to even realize that this was a possibility, and the first time that I achieved this ending my mind was positively blown). The mind worms also reminded me of Frank Herbert’s Dune, with which I was obsessed when I was in high school. In fact, that reminds me, I should make the Dune real-time strategy game the subject of another one of these throwback posts…
At any rate, the sci fi anti-utopian factions and the bizarre alien landscape captivated me. I felt as very loyal to the faction I choose and tried to play well as each one, to represent their ideals to the highest possible degree and for the most good.
I haven’t gotten a chance to play its spiritual successor, Civilization: Beyond Earth, but I would like to if I ever have a lull in my own work. Alas, that is the trouble with working on gaming and Internet culture. There is always something new on the horizon.
What is your favorite version of Civilization? Who was your favorite faction in Alpha Centauri? Comment and share you story below!