Friday, July 17, 2015

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization - 4/20 hours

I'm of two minds about this game. My first and strongest thought was "Colonization? Really?" I love the Civilization games, but they have a subtle, yet troubling subtext - the expected and optimal way of playing is highly imperialist. There's basically no downside to rolling into a place uninvited and taking over other people's stuff. Colonization seems to make that subtext explicit. It's like, if I successfully displace the native Americans . . . I win? It's a really uncomfortable premise for a game.

Which is a shame, because the actual mechanics of the game are really good. You have to cultivate land and gather resources to set up supply chains in order make finished goods that you can trade to both the old country and the natives, while recruiting colonists with a variety of specialized skill that can improve your production, economy, and culture. The complexity and detail of this game is incredibly engaging.

So, I don't know, does the latter point make the former worth it? This is a tough one. It's easy to forget about the real history of European colonization of the Americas and just buy into the game's simplified and whitewashed version of history. It's really not that different than the mythological story of America's origins that you learn in grade school.

But maybe that's exactly what's wrong. There's nothing at all challenging about Colonization's story. It does nothing to discomfit the self-congratulatory Eurocentric narrative of colonization, and consequently feels like it enables, if not passively endorses, America's system of white supremacy. Which, you know, is not a great feeling to get from a video game. It's enough to make me resent the fact that the logistical setup is probably my favorite in the series.

I think what I'll do is try and download a sci-fi mod, to remove the disgraceful historical context from the equation. It's likely that aliens and spaceships will be less fantastic than the standard game.

1 comment:

  1. I continue to enjoy your perspective on games. It's the self-awareness that really pushes this over the edge from cute writing about the games you play to a fascinating look into a series of games.