A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
It is a real wake-up call when my armies are routed for the fourth time by the vastly superior forces of...Gandhi. That's when I know my culture is not destined for greatness.
I am playing the latest version of Sid Meier's famously addictive Civilization, in which a player guides a society, for better or worse, from 4,000 B.C. to the space age. Now, the game is making the leap from personal computers to the console gaming platforms Xbox, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation 3.
In its essentials Civilization Revolution is the same game that kept a generation of archaeology students up at 2:00 a.m. shirking their term papers on the origins of urbanism. The object of the game is still to out-compete rival civilizations--led by the likes of Julius Caesar and Montezuma--by building cities, maintaining armies, and researching cultural developments that range from agriculture to the Internet. But I was surprised by how much more dramatic the game is when played on a large TV screen.
While the experience is epic, it's also comparatively brief. On the PC, it was possible to spend 200 hours on a single game. The average Civilization Revolution game won't last much longer than three hours, and the swift pace creates some glaring anachronisms. For instance, it's possible your culture can make it to A.D. 1000 without learning about ceremonial burial, something that shows up in the archaeological record as early as 30,000 B.C. Older versions of the game were more faithful to the pace of history, but one flaw all versions share is they are rooted in the 19th-century notion that every culture progresses neatly through the same stages of social and technological development. There are no dark ages in which cultural developments disappear.
Despite being crushed by Gandhi's armies, I enjoy the new version immensely. Who knew winding up on the ash heap of history could be so fun?Share