June 02, 2002
my culture is more loveable than yours

The American Prospect takes a whack at explaining the fascination of Civilization III. Maybe not super-deep, and maybe a little like dancing about architecture, but by the time he confesses his "naive faith -- central to both Marxism and much of Christianity -- that humanity is meant to get history right" unbelievers may get the point.

Posted by dbrown at June 02, 2002 03:02 PM

Yeah, weird, I just saw that the other day, and can't even remember how I got there.

This was the striking part for me: "Who has not yearned to go back, just once, and try to do history over?"

There's something to it. It reminds me specifically of this one guy in Errol Morris' First Person who went back to high school as soon as he was done. The guy is genius HQ, and went back to high school for about 10 years.

It's a form of time travel, he says. Who wouldn't go back to try to do it right? Isn't that the fundamental fantasy? And isn't just going through high school again one way to take that trip?

Just asking.

Posted by: kevin slavin on June 2, 2002 08:22 PM

I really liked this piece, but it does raise that issue that I've always wondered about, which is, can you adequately describe a videogame in such a way so that you don't sound like you have acne and no life?

There's the addictive part of the gameplay mechanics and then there's the larger issues which are not often given the thought they deserve. The former is why games are ghettoized in most people's minds (most of whom have never played a game for real, all the way through). It's like reviewing a book you haven't read from cover to cover or a film you've only seen the trailer for. The problem with games is that, following that analogy, they're all action/thriller/horror movies.

For me, there was something so viscerally satisfying about cultivating my cities. The way the gameplay cycled there are really no stopping points -- there is always something needing to be built or something finishing -- it's kind of like Solitaire in a way. But then, along the way, you begin to realize the underlying algorithms that drive the game, but for me, those realizations came when I was not playing the game, but when i was reading the paper, seeing headlines about the US maneuvering to secure strategic resources in Afghanistan, or the rhetoric from countries about the buildup of American troops etc.

Posted by: tmonkey on June 3, 2002 11:57 AM

OK, well this is the kind of thing that stigmatizes gaming.

Poor guy seems to have shot himself after getting sucked into Everquest and failing to emerge....

Posted by: tmonkey on June 3, 2002 12:38 PM

Yes, those are the interesting questions. I tried once, for Interiors mag, to do something about what office design can learn from level design, but it was kind of weak. There are important lessons to learn from games, as well as to teach them.

Regarding the "EQ suicide" I think that there is something important there besides the tragedy, which is in no way to negate it or diminish it.

The thing to keep track of is the level of emotional investment that games provide, for those who play them. That investment, I think, is neither good nor bad, unless it's, you know, bad. That something that happened in EQ was important enough to trigger an emotional break in that poor guy is -- again, beyond the tragedy -- proof of concept.

It's not escapism unless it supplants reality. And I don't know what it is in the case of Civ3, for example, where it it closely, securing strategic resources indeed.

Posted by: kevin slavin on June 3, 2002 02:02 PM
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