Friday, 6 July 2012

Life, Liberty, and Civilization: Part 2

Finding the real meaning of any work of art is a notoriously difficult thing, and it certainly not easy with a game like Civilization which isn't overt about it's messages instead it relies upon allowing its mechanics to resonate with its players and allow its meaning as Thomas Jefferson might have put it 225 years earlier 'self evident'. The concept of self-evident truth is universal, but in all its forms & variations it remains incredibly elusive next to impossible to reproduce, rationally de-construct or describe, but its something that games have always been very good at.

This is Civ's implicit promise to the gamer, 'play me' it says 'and it will all become clear' 'this is how the world works' 'this is how a civilisation must be'. A player is expected to gradually come to see this truth, and that anyone who does not understand and accept it is fated to fail, for their civilisation will not 'stand the test of time'. Its a message that is driven home every step of the way as a player advances into the future.

All men are created equal 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Life, Liberty, and Civilization

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

That sentence begins what is undeniably one of the most important documents of western civilisation. But while I doubt those words can ever resonate with me as they can with anyone born in the land of their origin, the promise implicit within them still has the power to speak to me across the expanses of time and the Atlantic ocean. They expound to me a sense of a shared human experience, and a faith in the potential of every individual. They are in a very real way the heart of the American ideal.

In particular when I look at those words I see the great paradox of western democracy, born from the essence of two philosophies who's ongoing conflict has helped define modern life.
I'm going to talk about that paradox, the slippery nature of truth, how history makes some more equal than others, and the enduring power of hope. But mostly I am going to talk about a how a video game helped me understand these ideas. How it began a series of games which has for over 20 years remained approachable and bipartisan, while providing ongoing conversation over what the ascendancy of western democracy means. I'm going to talk about Civilization.