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Monday, July 18, 2016

Retro Reflections: Civilization 2 made me realise that games are art

Retro reflections by Matt S.

Civilization 2 was the first time that I realised that games could inspire people outside of the narrow confines of the game itself. I wasn’t really thinking that through back when I was playing it, but in hindsight, the game was quite foundational in my whole “games as art” shtick that I’m on now.

Released back in 1996, I was about 14 when I first played the game (no, you don’t know how old I am now, I got it a little after its first release). I didn’t really know what the game was when I picked it up; I simply liked the box art and heft of the thing. The heft was because this game had a manual that was over 100 pages in length (the good old days…). There was also a poster in there that outlined the full tech tree that you could progress down as your civilisation made new discoveries. This I immediately had laminated because I really liked the way it was designed. I think I still have that around somewhere, though for the longest time it was hanging up just over my computer for easy reference.

But, of course, it was the game itself that was so completely compelling. The idea of taking a civilisation from its most primitive – when it was little more than a handful of club-wielding meatheads, and taking it right through to the modern era of guns and tanks was impossibly addictive to young me. By careful manipulation of diplomacy with rivals, scientific research and discovery, and management of my cities I was able to grow empires larger than any the real world had ever seen. I had to deal with any number of existential threats to my people – be that barbarians in the early years, through to rioting populations and nuclear-armed rival empires in the end game.

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Retro Reflections: Civilization 2 made me realise that games are art
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