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Civilization…

March 3rd, 2008 · No Comments

I just finished reading Orson Scott Card’s book: Pastwatch – The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. I was enthralled with this work of alternate-history fiction from beginning to end, just as I have been with all the rest of Card’s work (save for Invasive Procedures, which was co-written).

The book revolves around an organization in the distant future (Pastwatch) that has developed the ability to observe past events as they happen using special computers. Naturally, the people working for Pastwatch use their special machines to observe life as it was for the world’s ancient peoples in an anthropological fashion. However, the organization’s goals change as it learns that it can actually influence past events to change future events. Suddenly realizing that their world isn’t the utopia they had believed it to be, they decide to search for the pivotal event in the timeline that led the world to the near-cataclysm they now find themselves in. That pivotal event, they decided, was Columbus’ sailing West and discovering the Americas. There is a much better synopsis than mine, here.

Towards the end of the book, there is much manipulation of past civilizations to alter both humanity’s and the Earth’s future states. And that got me thinking about a computer game that used to occupy loads and loads of my free time back in my final year of high school. That game, “Sid Meier’s Civilization,” was one of the first games of the “turn-based strategy” genre that I remember playing.  Meant for one player, the user takes on the role of founder and potentate of any of a number of past empires (Aztecs, Americans, Mongols, and Romans to name a few) who must expand his empire through exploration and conquest, which both funds and is allowed by continued scientific advancement to reach humanity’s highest achievements. The game was always fascinating to me because, no matter how often I played, the timeline always worked itself out differently within the game. Aztecs conquered the Spanish? Romans build tanks? Mongols fly to the moon? It was never the same twice, it seemed.

So because of this book, I want to play the game again. There have been several incarnations of the Civilization game, up through Civilization IV, which was released in 2005. I find myself gravitating back to the original, though. The only way I’m able to find to get a hold of something similar to the original version that will run on modern machines is to download an open-source freeware game called “FreeCiv” that is based (heavily) on the now 17-year-old PC game. Rest assured, I’ll be doing that soon.

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