6.27.2008

Could a Native American Enjoy Playing Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization?

In a previous post, I wrote about the integration of culture into Civ III. A post by Ben Fritz on the Variety Cut Scene video game blog has got me thinking about the Civ series again. In short, Ben is quite upset that the recently announced Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization is a morally disturbing premise for a game.

In part, I'm inclined to agree. While I've been enjoying the Civ games, it's hard for me not to picture the many terrible things that happened either during or as a result of the actual colonization period. I don't think making a historically based game in itself is a bad thing. In fact, it's great. And hopefully causes people to be more attuned to the importance of history. Really, I think the greatest detriment of this new Colonization game is that it you can only play as one of four colonizing nations.

I think it would be more interesting, and provide for a different game play experience, if you could (only?) play as the Native Americans. While the core Civ games allow you to play as many different cultures, even some that no longer exist, you ultimately play the game in a similar manner. If you choose the Aztecs as your civilization, they can still come to conquer the world just like anyone else. Not to knock Civ too much, because I love it's core game play and attempt at incorporating as many historical 'milestones' as possible. But after reading Ben's article, it seems to me like the Civ games are really more about playing a "What if?" scenario than about accurately recreating history.

True, Colonization covers a much more specific period of history. But imagine if you could only play as the Aztecs, Iroquois, Shawnee, and Mayans, and were doomed from the start. It would be a much more powerful experience than performing the same old conquest again and again. This reminds of my last post, about how MGS4 is much more somber, and even sad, than previous versions.

I agree with Ben that there are deep, serious issues about power and colonization buried within all of the Civ games. However, unlike the RE5 race controversy, I think these issues are more difficult for the average gamer to recognize. Plus, it's easy to shrug and say, "What are you talking about? Colonization is ancient history. That doesn't happen anymore." Right or wrong, I'm glad Ben Fritz reminded me of the underlying themes of the Civ games. They are definitely worth exploring.