Civilization Made Me Love History

History, as a subject in school, can be incredibly dry. Listening to a professor drone on for hours about the socioeconomic context of the French Revolution isn’t necessarily the most interesting thing to do. Yet, one thing has made me enjoy most of the history I’ve learned: Sid Meier’s Civilization series.

Civilization is one of those games that stuck with me throughout my childhood; I started playing Civilization III many years ago and now I have the same experiences in Civilization V. It has been a pleasure to watch the series grow and mature, and truly become an great way to experience and create history.

At its core, Civilization simulates the growth of humanity through the centuries and millenia. To this end, there are many realistic aspects of the game that draw from anthropology and prehistoric humanity all the way through the current trends of contemporary humans. At the beginning of the game, most players are training club-wielding cavemen and erecting obelisks. Near the end, all players have heavily armed marines and are building nuclear power plants.

I don’t play Civilization like most people. While I enjoy a randomly generated map as much as the next person, when I picked up Civilization, I immediately gravitated toward more realistic maps and scenarios. To this day, my favorite Civilization games take place on Earth maps with all the civilizations in their real geographic locations. I’ve had the most fun in Civilization trying to “rewrite” history by having the French discover the New Word before anyone else (I, unlike my AI comrades, know that the world is in fact round) or having the Romans continue to be a world power all the way through to the twenty-first century.

Also, the scenarios included with the game are a fantastic way to fuel this newfound love for history. In my time with Civilization, I’ve fought off Mongol invasions in northern China, captured Jerusalem with my French knights in the first crusade, and retaken Spain from the Arabs in the Reconquista. Civilization IV’s “Earth 1000 A.D.” scenario taught me infinitely more about Earth at the turn of the millenium than I would have in any history class.

That being said, Civilization has allowed me to get so much more out of history than I ever had before. Playing this game has given me a new perspective on history; I’ve been the one struggling to keep my bankrupt kingdom afloat or the one who fights century long wars with multiple enemies. And this is what makes Civilization such a great game and a game that allows people to appreciate history more. In a way, it allows people to identify with history, and experience history, in their own way.