jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
[personal profile] jewelfox

"Civ V" lets you build a civilization (of humans) "to stand the test of time." In game terms, this means you start with stone-age settlers and end up with world domination, in or before the modern age.

That's the first thing that's horrifying in hindsight, to someone who grew up with these games and just played them again last night. The goal isn't to coexist and appreciate global diversity. It's to dominate all life on Earth, whether through armed conflict or cultural hegemony. And while there are benefits to cooperating with "minor city-states," in your struggle against the other players, by the modern age you drop all pretense of a mutually beneficial relationship and go straight to rigging elections. Because if you don't, your opponents' spies will.

The second thing is the cultural biases. They let you choose from dozens of historical leaders, but whether you're playing Boudica, Hiawatha, or George Washington you end up playing America F*** Yeah in practice. Either that, or a cartoon version of 20th century dictatorships.

Here's a short list of disturbing stuff from the "social policies" interface, as of the Gods and Kings expansion (I'm one behind):

  • "Faith" and "Rationalism" are mutually exclusive.

  • Socialism is a precursor to Communism in the "Order" policy tree. You can't have it active at the same time as "Liberty," which is the only way to grant universal suffrage.

  • Somehow, you can have Theocracy and Religious Tolerance active at the same time (and are rewarded for doing so).

  • There is an honest-to-goddess Meritocracy social policy, which was not ironically named (at least not on purpose).

You're rewarded for producing Great Artists, Engineers, Scientists, and so on, all of whom are named after real-world figures. There's no argument or discussion about what makes these people "great," and there are an awful lot of white guys, like patent troll Orville Wright.

Building a bank and stock exchange in every city won't result in rampant speculation, housing crises, and market crashes. There's no such thing as international banking. Money's a tool to be used by political leaders.

"Wonders of the World" are unique and exclusive, to the point where if your civilization's one turn behind in producing the Sistine Chapel you have to abandon it and start over once Catherine of Russia builds it instead. Awe-inspiring temples and monuments aren't ways to bring the world together, they're just more tools for domination and promoting inequality.

"Natural Wonders" are special and inviolate, and can't be "improved" by your Workers. They're pretty much the only land tiles that are like this, however. Everything, and I mean everything else, eventually gets railroad tracks, lumber mills, and strip mines laid out across it, until your country's a patchwork of farms, city skylines, and smokestacks. There are no ecological consequences to building coal-fired factories, nuclear power plants, dams, quarries, and gaudy landmarks everywhere. The sea level does not rise. Resources are never depleted. No continent-sized islands of garbage form in the ocean. If nonhuman species go extinct, you don't hear about them.

And that, to me, is the most horrifying thing about Civ V. Watching a game of it play out feels, to me, like it might to most humans watching the robots from the Matrix plate the Earth in cast iron. Nonhuman species have zero agency, zero voice, and zero way to fight back as they are annihilated, mere obstacles in the way of "progress." Rewards for leaving wild areas wild are few and far between, and there's always the possibility that you'll strike oil right next to the Great Barrier Reef.

This game is nightmarish.

I'll stop playing after I finish one more turn. :P

Date: 2014-07-02 10:06 am (UTC)
burning_ground: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burning_ground
#accidentalpropaganda

Date: 2014-07-02 10:25 am (UTC)
burning_ground: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burning_ground
Oh, actually to me the game *itself* seems like propaganda, for... basically upholding the status quo in a number of ways.

It's like, hey you know what's great? White people! and destroying the environment for the sake of uncontrolled expansion! and placing value on familiar cultural icons to the extent that those are *all of the wonders you can create in this game*.

That feels like propaganda, at least to me. It's just reinforcing the familiar to a ridiculous extent, like some kind of state-sanctioned game that was designed to do just that, to turn off people's minds.

I guess if it were too unfamiliar the game would lose playability or something but sheesh.

(Also, ironically this is the kind of game design *least* likely to be seen as a political statement, so maybe they were deliberately trying to avoid this kind of interpretation.)

Date: 2014-07-02 10:13 am (UTC)
burning_ground: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burning_ground
No but really this is one of those things where either they have a functional sense of irony or else... do they not realize??

If people want to see a product of privilege, to ascertain that it is real, all they have to do is look at stuff like this!!

Wow.

Date: 2014-07-02 02:18 pm (UTC)
yourdeer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yourdeer
Yikes. I agree with burning_ground in calling it accidental propaganda (or maybe not accidental?) for upholding everything about the status quo that makes my skin crawl.
Also, how the heck does socialism preclude universal suffrage? How the heck can "Faith" and "Rationalism" be mutually exclusive even while "Theocracy" and "Religious tolerance" can coexist? How?
The lack of consequences for completely destroying everything sounds really creepy, too.

Date: 2014-07-02 02:57 pm (UTC)
citrakayah: (Default)
From: [personal profile] citrakayah
Honestly, that sort of stuff made it so I don't like a lot of these games... there is only one winner, and everyone else loses. Moreover, the goal is to kill all of your opponent's populace and replace it with your own... civilians can go screw themselves, evidently.

And theocracy and religious diversity are far more incompatible than rationalism and faith--both of the former describe overall states of society. Theocracy demands that a specific religion be given special status. Religious diversity implies a tolerance for other religions and some degree of secularism.

Rationalism and faith describe the way a specific individual thinks (which means that they're stupid words to choose as descriptors of society), and oh yes, people aren't perfectly consistent in their beliefs and can display properties of both, even if being completely rationalistic means not having faith.


0 A.D. was much better about the whole thing... there was a finite amount of wood, stone, and metal. Also you're kind of stuck at 0 A.D... so over-development is slightly less of an issue.

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