Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Sometimes, things intersect in ways I don't expect in my mind.

Every student doing the course of study here takes a course in UK history, politics, culture, and such. The course has lectures for a couple hours a week, which are open to anyone, and discussion sections, which, alas, aren't. The lectures are really good; I've been thinking as I listen to the different lecturers how consistently good they are: well organized, interesting, just what you want in a lecture.

Today's lecture was on 19th century British Imperialism.

Have I ever mentioned that I really like the game Civilization? Specifically, I play Civ II. I know, I'm a decade or more behind the times, but Civ II is really good, and doesn't seem as overly complex as some of the later ones.

So today, I kept thinking of how poor a model of imperialism Civ II affords; it's way too easy to take over a country and that's that; once you've thoroughly defeated them, that's it. Not so with real places, of course. You may take over France, but then you have an infant king and voila, France is kicking your butt again. You try to take over India, and they rebel and won't play nice with the salt. And so forth.

Civ II is much easier. And I don't actually have to think about real people dying or suffering when I go to "war" in the game, either.


  1. I think the later versions of CIV did much better with that aspect of it. For one thing, the idea of cultural attraction affecting a city's allegiance is interesting. It means that if you conquer a city too far away from your empire's centre, and there are powerful cities nearby with a different allegiance, you won't be able to keep your newly conquered city from switching allegiance back again, unless you spend a HUGE amount of military resources to hold it.

  2. Tomorrow I'll be teaching the section of Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake that introduces the game Blood and Roses, in which players trade atrocities for human achievements--"one Mona Lisa equalled Bergen-Belsen, one Armenian genocide equalled the Ninth Symphony plus three Great Pyramids," which provides a disturbing way to think about playing at civilization, especially since "winning meant you inherited a wasteland." It makes for an interesting class discussion.