Apparently it is twenty years ago that a certain Canadian gentleman called Sid Meier released what eventually became the first episode of the Civilization series — one of the most successful and iconic computer games in history. I have personally spent untold hours of my student days back in Tartu University playing it, trying to beat those pesky saracens in the race to acquire gunpowder or outrace mongols in rolling out the continental railway network.
Twenty years is a long time, and it is an eternity as far as computer games go. I have a hard time recalling another game from early 90-s that would still be going strong and coming out in ever new releases and this means that Civilization packs some amazing staying power. It is certainly a game that reformed, if not created, the strategy game genre on a computer, but perhaps one of the reasons for its enduring popularity can be found somewhere else. For those 20 years, Civilization has been, at the level of popular culture, both relying as well as reproducing the view of the world as a clash of civilizations — that incidentally found its most famous contemporary formulation by Samuel P. Huntington in 1992. The world of Civilization is that of clearly demarcated and fixed societies, determined by certain cultural traits built around distinctive religions. It also pays tribute to the age-old “Great Man view of history”, tracing back to Thomas Carlyle.
I must admit that I haven’t played Civ for at least 15 years, likely longer, so I am certainly not up to speed in terms of its current gameplay and content. It would, however, be intriguing to see if and when will Civilization adjust to the present world. After all, Huntington is dead for more than 2 years and perhaps it would be time to give his greatest idea a rest too.