From Civilization to Big Brother: how a game recreated Orwell’s 1984 | Books | guardian.co.uk
If you happen to have touched a computer some time within the last 20 years, the chances are you may well have spent a regrettably long time playing on one of the many instalments of Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise. I doubt, however, that you will have devoted quite as much of your life to it as a contributor to the Reddit forums going by the name of Lycerius. He it must be a he! posted the following extraordinary statement:
“I’ve been playing the same game of Civ II for 10 years. Though long outdated, I grew fascinated with this particular game because by the time Civ III was released, I was already well into the distant future. I then thought that it might be interesting to see just how far into the future I could get and see what the ramifications would be.”
Just in case you are one of the few people not to have played Civilization, and are therefore unaware of the planet-shifting magnetism of Lycerius’ post, Here’s a quick primer.
Civilization is a game that – true to its name – enables you to build your own civilisation. You start in 4000BC in a small village, which you gradually expand by farming, building things like libraries so that you can develop technologies, and producing armies to conquer other territories. It’s addictive, vaguely educational and most sane people stopped playing some time around 1997 both in real and game years, once they’d built a spaceship and reached Alpha Centauri.
Not so Lycerius. He has carried on for an extra 2,000 years – although he is at pains to point out he doesn’t just play Civilization II non-stop “Naturally, I play other games and have a life…”. Yet, as quickly becomes apparent when you read through the rest of his post as I urge you to do, even if Lycerius had dedicated all of his time to playing Civilization, it wouldn’t have been wasted. The results are fascinating. He summarises them thus:
• The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.
• There are three remaining super nations in the year AD3991, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.
“You’ve heard of the 100-year war? Try the 1,700-year war. The three remaining nations have been locked in an eternal death struggle for almost 2,000 years. Peace seems to be impossible. Every time a ceasefire is signed, the Vikings will surprise attack me or the Americans the very next turn, often with nuclear weapons.”
Strange Random 1984 Quote:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” ― George Orwell, 1984
- Decade-long Civilization II game crumbles into dystopian nightmare (wired.co.uk)
- Decade-long Civ II game mired in 1700 years of nuclear war (arstechnica.com)
- Man Spends Decade Playing Epic PC Game (news.sky.com)
- What Happens When You Play the Same Game of ‘Civilization’ for 10 Years? (theatlanticwire.com)
- A Never-Ending Video Game (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- “The Eternal War”: Ten Years of a Single Civ 2 Game (escapistmagazine.com)
- Ten year game of Civ 2 results in “hellish nightmare” planet, permanent nuclear war (pcgamer.com)
- Here’s What The World Looks Like In 3991 AD, According To A 10-Year Game Of Civilization II (businessinsider.com)
- The End of “Civilization” (boston.com)