Snarky Behavior

League of Dorks Ombudsman Report: Civilization IV

September 2, 2007 · 2 Comments

League of Dorks Ombudsman Report: Where I reveal my inner hidden dorkiness to the rest of the world for the benefit of dork-nondork relations.

The morning after the premiere of Spiderman III, I e-mailed my boss to tell her that I would be coming into the office late because the movie had a run-time much longer than anticipated and as a result, I had not gotten to sleep until well past 3 a.m. She replied with something to the extent of “That’s fine. But don’t forget to wear your League of Dorks underpants!”

For the purposes of maintaining the homeostatic balance of my fragile ego I am willing to concede loose affiliation to the “League of Dorks” (note: the original usage of this term, to my knowledge, was made by Bill Simmons’ wife in reference to his fantasy baseball team). But I don’t consider myself a full-fledge card carrying member, principly because a) I’m not a virgin and b) I don’t live with my parents.

I see my affiliation with the LoD more in the role of an ombudsman: I’m not smooth with women but I can hold a conversation; I don’t have disgusting amounts of dandruff but I cut my own hair; I don’t have a “second life” but I write a blog; and I don’t exploit polygons, but I have taken to drinking Mountain Dew for caffeine purposes, since Red Bull is so god damned expensive.

So without further ado I would like to invite you into the realm of dorks to discuss something of greater relevance…I will attempt to make this as accessible as possible:

Civilization IV by Sid Meier is the only computer or video game I play besides the occassional match of Wii bowling. The premise of the game is very similar to the popular SimCity series only Civilization is turn based while SimCity develops in “real” time. And while SimCity is limited to the growth and development of a single city, Civilization charts the path of entire societies.

The reason that I like Civilization so much is because it really drives home the point of economic determinism, or the idea of WHERE a society establishes itself in terms of latitude, access to resources and trade routes, and natural barriers, REALLY make a huge impact in terms of predicting the relative success and failure of a societies’ development. (I.E. Living in the mountains or deserts of Sub-Saharan Africa is really, really, really hard to do).

You see, you start the game as a nomadic tribe of settlers and warriors (YES, I GET IT, I’M A DORK), with only the simple tools and technologies of the stone age to guide your growth. As the game progresses and you allocate your resources, you discover new technologies which foster growth, new societies which encourage trade, and new lands which expand your borders.

The point of the game is competing with neighboring civilizations for discovery and management of land and resources, for the relative benefit of your own societies’ peoples. As continents are explored, lands claimed, and resources snatched up, border conflicts (unsurprisingly) arise over control of these resources.

All in all, the game does an excellent job of helping make real the painful demands that growth and development make on competing cultures and societies. But here’s where this gets interesting:

The objective of the game is clearly defined and easy to pursue early in the game: you start with no knowledge of the world map… so you explore. You start with a small capital city with limited access to resources…. so you expand and trade. Your countrymen are overpopulated or starving or unemployed… so you war for more space or cause a revolution in your system of government.

By the end of the game, when the globe is filled up, and the nature of the weaponry is massive destruction (nuclear missles… which effectively eliminate the possibility of war), and all of the systems of government are liberal democracies and all of the global economies are inter-connected by infrastructure and trade barriers are eliminated, and all of the space exploration programs have been explored… the game ends.

According to the structure of the game, sometime around the middle of this century, the “game” of our civilization ends. We arrive at Nietzche’s Last Man , “an apathetic creature, who has no great passion or commitment, who is unable to dream, who merely earns his living and keeps warm.” More than anything, this plateau of progress embodies the “End of History” that Francis Fukuyama speaks to.

If we already have arrived at the End of History, or at least are at its footsteps, is it true that we no longer dare to dream? Or do we evolve to a higher level of consciousness, above the fray of the base-level competition of a global economy that determines who gets what, but no longer why?

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Rohit // September 4, 2007 at 5:10 pm | Reply

    1) First and foremost, kudos for incorporating Civilization IV, Francis Fukuyama, and Nietzsche in one post.
    2) Given the “EECS” acronym that will always appear on any educational history I might put forth for the rest of my life, I should be considerably dorkier than you, and yet, I have never played Civilization IV (or I, II, or III for that matter).
    3) To answer your question: this is when the robots take over.

  • John // September 5, 2007 at 1:18 am | Reply

    1.) You should play World of Warcraft. I waste a ton of time in there, but I have yet to do the dew. I do have some good stories about players I’ve run into (seeing as my thesis work is based on WoW).
    2.) If you like Civilization, check out Spore. It’s still in development and looks pretty cool.
    3.)Check out my thoughts on ePeen.

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