Civilization, colonialism, and the misunderstanding of history

Pascal Wagner

Pascal Wagner hat einen B.A. in Anglistik und Rechtswissenschaften und studiert M.A. Cultural and Cognitive Linguistics. Er liebt es, über Kultur und Sprache in Videospielen zu schreiben. Besonders angetan haben es ihm außerdem Indiespiele, die er auf seinem Blog Indieflock rezensiert. Er ist viel zu oft auf Twitter unterwegs und besitzt auch eine E-Mail-Adresse (pascal[at]indieflock[dot]net).

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3 Antworten

  1. antimatzist sagt:

    „Of those 23, eleven are Western industrial nations, while only four are countries that were directly hit by colonialism“
    I would add Australia here – but its traits do not reflect its past as a colony. Also, Nubia has just been added as a DLC Civ.
    „Interestingly though, the last two games before VI, Civilization V and Beyond Earth, featured some small instances to improve on this duality. Building oil rigs for example decreased local health and happiness in both games.“
    There is no „health“ concept in Civilization V, nor does the Oil Well decrease happiness. I actually don’t remember a main Civ game to have these effects (but it’s been a decade since I last played Civ III or earler).
    „Cases like Tharp are common, female minds forgotten behind male colleagues who may or may not have deserved to take the lion’s share of fame.“
    But then again, the number of Great Persons in Civ VI is limited to three per era. YOu will always miss out on people; and the person has to give an appropriate bonus. For Mme Curie, a bonus to some atomic techs would have worked, but what if during their playthroughs, the developers found that most people aloready discover these techs by the point Curie would have been available? (Endgame technology in Civ VI is totally broken anyway)
    And this is the point I have to disagree heavily about:
    „It is a restriction that does not tie into what the game actually wants: to give the player freedom to reshape history.“
    This is not what Civ VI (or any Civ game for that matter) wants. It is a game, and with each new installment (and add-on), the developers made the games more game-like and streamlined. Many decisions in the game were taken away from the player or have no more effect on gameplay. In Civilization IV, founding a religion was crucial for many boni, finding friends with the same state religion had a huge impact on diplomacy. But in Civ VI, I couldn’t care less about religion (I even don’t really understand the system), even though it’s a VC now!
    And this list goes on. Your political system never had a huge effect on gameplay – but your choice of wanted victory condition always dictated your political system. Space & peace? Democracy. War? Autocracy. (I actually haven’t played enough of Civ VI yet to evaluate the system here).
    Civ never wanted to be an actual representation of history (and if it did, it always failed). Otherwise they wouldn’t have kept Gandhi’s love for Nuclear Weapons even in recent installments. No, it’s about fun and enjoying YOUR nation.
    But still, this article raises many thought-provoking thoughts which the Civ team should adhere to in future installments/DLCs, especially because they often also touch gameplay aspects. But by now, the Civ team got too afraid to display the complexity of real history and emphasize the game aspect.
    but tl;dr: By playing the first Civ I was able to learn all about history by the age of 10 or so. My teachers hated my love of reciting the seven world wonders.

    • FalseShepard sagt:

      Thanks for the big comment! I have to disagree with you on a number of points, though.

      “I would add Australia here – but its traits do not reflect its past as a colony. Also, Nubia has just been added as a DLC Civ.”
      Australia is probably the worst example – or the best for the point I make in the text. The nation of Australia in Civ VI is entirely white, there is no mention of the Australian natives or its oppressive deeds against those. It’s therefore a very much colonialist and not at all victim nation.

      “There is no „health“ concept in Civilization V, nor does the Oil Well decrease happiness. I actually don’t remember a main Civ game to have these effects (but it’s been a decade since I last played Civ III or earler).”
      The ‘global happiness’ system of Civ V and the ‘Health’ system of Civ:BE work almost exactly the same way, which is why I summarized them together. You are right about the Oil Well of Civ V, though. The one I meant is the Petroleum Well of Civ:BE, which decreases Health by a substantial amount.

      “For Mme Curie, a bonus to some atomic techs would have worked, but what if during their playthroughs, the developers found that most people aloready discover these techs by the point Curie would have been available?”
      The same could be said about any other Scientist that gives a specific bonus. Turing isn’t useful if you already have Computers, and yet he is in the game, because you can simply not patronize him if you don’t need him.

      “Civ never wanted to be an actual representation of history (and if it did, it always failed). ”
      Keep in mind games like Civ (just as Europa Universalis, Victoria, Verdun and whatever game in whatever genre lets you play a historic scenario where you have actual choices) do never portrait actual history, but give you the option to play alternative histories (with ‘actual history’, whatever that may be, being one of the variants you could choose). In this, Civ always tried to stay as close to what people saw as representing history as Sid Meier’s concept “if it isn’t fun, don’t put in in” allowed. You are right of course in that it most of often, if not always, failed in this effort. The article gives enough examples on why I do think that.
      Also, you are right in that the mechanics of the Civ series got streamlined down towards a more and more gamey approached in contrast to a representational approach. However, one has to take into account the spoken intent of the developer (such as in the interview linked above). If the developers say they want to represent a certain version of historic comprehension, then they have to be measured against that – whether they actually achieve it or not.

      “But by now, the Civ team got too afraid to display the complexity of real history and emphasize the game aspect.”
      I’d like to argue that this was always the case and only the mechanical complexity is what got less complex. Even Civ I saw progress as what history is all about, which is entirely understandable from a “if it’s fun, do it” perspective, but frankly wrong if you want to represent ‘real’ history (I shudder everytime we write something like that).

  2. Matze sagt:

    1. Ah, I meant to add Australia as an example FOR your argument. Sorry for being unclear. 🙂
    2. I never played BE, so I didn’t know. But I also remember older Civ games having similar concepts. Civ VI, however, only moves „forward“, there’s never a real drawback on what you do.
    3. You are right, and leaving out one of the greatest scientists ever is a big fail – but still, I doubt this was intentional. Maybe the developers felt people didn’t pursue the Computer tech during their playthroughs, making Turing valuable (again, I don’t have much Civ VI experience yet compared to past titles). You’re right in calling it out, but I just don’t think it was really on purpose.
    4. It’s hard to draw a line here what representing „history“ actually means. I recently read, e.g., a discussion in a Civ board about Civ VI’s pacing. People complained that by the year 500 or so, they already were close to a space victory and that this was unrealistic. However, the date discplay should not be measured by our own history, so you’re right about the „alternate“ history. Also, there’s the trend in the Civ games that the player is evolving during a game. this was very evident with Civ V’s social policies which were in effect for eternity. At least, Cv VI brought back a more diverse system.
    5. I think that you are completely right about the representation of history in the Civ games, don’t get me wrong; I just wanted to point out that it’s hard to implement. You could make it so that Slavery gives you bonusses on production, but limits your growth. But this option alone would need a lot of balancing – especially when you then want to add more options! Civ VI made a huge step forwards with the AI, but they still need to balance that. And then they can work on history. 🙂

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