Scenarios for Revolution in Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991) and Sid Meier’s Colonization (1994) 
Martijn van der Burg
Publicatiedatum: 19 july 2023
History is a source of inspiration for video game developers, and many games relate to history in multiple ways. Games can build on existing narratives, but can also provide their own, modifying existing perceptions or evoking new ones. Viewed this way, games are no different from older forms of media. As with films and novels, historical events and characters are building blocks for a new story in a gaming environment. In this issue of Locus, Pieter de Bruijn explains in more detail how interactive storytelling techniques can be used in games to offer new possibilities for representing the past. 
A fundamental difference between video games and other media is the role of the audience. Video games are by nature interactive. The player’s choices often determine the course of the game, or at least the suggestion is made that their actions are co-determining. Even if a game narrates a predetermined story, for instance through fixed cutscenes, the way it unfolds is often dependent on individual players. The game experience is also shaped by the mechanics of play–the underlying rules that determine which actions are possible in game situations, and thus limit the player’s options.  The above issues of interactivity and freedom of choice affect historical games.  Furthermore, the specific gameplay (that is, the interaction with, and experience of the game) determines which parts of history are accentuated, or not.
To expand on these points, I will investigate two simulation and strategy games, Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991) and Sid Meier’s Colonization (1994), written by Sid Meier and Brian Reynolds respectively. Both games marked the beginning of a successful series of historical strategy games that followed thereafter. The Civilization series, in particular, has been extensively studied by academics. Studies focus, for instance, on the historical images conveyed, or the possible educational value of the game.  Other researchers have analyzed the game using concepts from sociology and philosophy, for example those of Foucault.  Others have pointed to the nineteenth-century evolutionary thinking present in the Civilization series.  Less research has been done on Sid Meier’s Colonization (hereafter: Colonization), certainly the original release from 1994. Ethical issues surrounding the game have been discussed, and more recently an article appeared dealing with assumptions about the relationship between colonial powers and indigenous people in the 2008 remake of Colonization. 
This article examines the function and representation of the historical concept of ‘revolution’ in Sid Meier’s Civilization and its offshoot Colonization.
Revolution is a central concept in both games, although it has a different character and purpose in each. However, research on ‘revolution’ in both games, both its representation and place in the gameplay, has hardly been done, which is striking since it is a central theme in the Civilization series of games. Sid Meier’s Civilization allows players to shape civilization from ancient times to the modern era, and the idea of revolution is woven into many aspects of the gameplay. Likewise, Sid Meier’s Colonization, which simulates the process of the European colonization of the Americas, explores the theme of revolution through the actions of the player, who takes on the role of a European colonizer and (eventually) a colonial revolutionary.
To define revolution, I follow scholar Jack A. Goldstone, who explicates revolution as an overthrow of a government, often forcibly, and involving the mobilization of a large group of people. In this process, social justice is invoked to legitimize the revolution and has new political institutions as a result. According to Goldstone, a revolution is always preceded by an ‘unstable equilibrium’, a period of growing dissatisfaction with structural problems (like demographic changes, international unrest, and socio-economic inequality), which means that only a relatively insignificant ‘trigger’ is needed to spark a revolution. Significantly, Goldstone does not limit himself to a specific period. Revolutions, according to Goldstone, can be traced as far back as ancient Egyptian and Grecian times.
Simulation and strategy
Civilization and Colonization, originally developed for PC, were released at a time when PC games were booming. Increasingly affordable PCs, with attractive innovations such as color screens and sound cards, relieved PCs of their initial boring image. The 1990s saw the rise of simulation games, which aimed to replicate real-world scenarios and events in a virtual gaming environment. Both Civilization and Colonization are such simulation games.
An adjacent genre is the turn-based strategy game, in which computer-generated opponents are present, with human and simulated players taking turns. Civilization and Colonization are games at the intersection of both genres, otherwise known as strategic simulations or 4X-games - eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate: the player is made to explore a virtual world, build a power base, ensure there are sufficient resources for further development, and hold their own against simulated rivals.
The development of Civilization
Sid Meier, who worked at the American videogame studio MicroProse, had earned a good reputation in the 1980s developing successful flight simulations. He became such a notable figure that a pirate game he developed was given his name in the title: Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987). Even though Pirates! was not intended as a historical simulation, it was given an award for historical game of the year and praised for its high-quality historical documentation and context. 
Thus grew Meier’s idea to develop a game that would genuinely simulate history. However, a first attempt at a historically accurate game failed because it simply was not ‘fun’.  Meier concluded that digitally reproducing a history book did not lead to an engaging playing experience. Surprisingly, he found inspiration for another way to tell a grand story in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Games, according to Meier, were not too far off from music in terms of their ability to draw their audiences into the past.
[Bach is] not telling me his story, but humanity’s story [in] a language that doesn’t require me to understand the specifics of his situation. I can read a book from eighteenth-century Germany and find some amount of empathy with the historical figures inside, but there will always be a forced translation of culture, society, and a thousand other details that I can never truly understand. Bach […] can reach across those three hundred years and make me, a man who manipulates electromagnetic circuits with my fingertips on a keyboard, feel just as profoundly as he made an impoverished farmer feel during a traditional rural celebration’. 
In dialogue with co-developer Bruce Shelley, Meier created a historical game world uninhibited by academic book knowledge. In Civilization, the player is put in charge of a Stone Age civilization and is challenged to advance it into the modern age, including developing the ability to research technologies, form alliances, and wage wars. Over thousands of years, the civilization modernizes and discoveries are made, eventually reaching the distant future.
Neighboring civilizations also complicate matters in the game. Some of these are peaceful and on their own, but others are aggressive and demanding. Players will therefore have to decide to what extent they want to coexist or go on the offensive. Meier was also keen to not make the game too civilized, and to permit less noble game strategies: ‘At times you have to make the player uncomfortable for the good of the player’. 
For a game that attempted to simulate six thousand years of human history, Meier and Shelley consulted very little literature during its development. Shelly later recalled that a visit to the children’s section of the library was enough to gather background information.  They wanted to limit themselves to known historical concepts, leaders and technologies.  Gaining knowledge was not a primary goal, but appealing to gamers’ curiosity was. Meier called this the ‘dirty little secret’ of their games: ‘you actually do learn something [...] Young people enjoy learning, even if they don’t necessarily enjoy being educated’. 
Nevertheless, the comprehensive guide to Civilization written by Shelley references several historical studies. One is The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987) by Paul Kennedy, which deals with the relationship between great powers and the availability of resources and long-term sustainability of power. However, so as not to discourage players, Meier consciously omitted various events which caused many civilizations to fall throughout history. Major catastrophes like plague epidemics, for instance, were avoided in the game.  Another striking inspiration is Riane Eisler’s The Blade and the Chalice (1987), a study that points to gender equality as a prerequisite for peaceful societies to exist. In Civilization, consequently, women’s suffrage is one of the ‘world wonders’ that can be achieved in modern times, given that – according to the manual – women's suffrage ‘has led to increasing practical freedom, at least in the West’. 
The bibliography illustrates later criticism that the game would be too ‘Western-centric’. Meier later acknowledged that there was a latent West-East distinction in the game, which he attributed to Cold War sentiments and that they wished to stay close to the experience of the (often Western) players: ‘Just the whole idea that technology drives progress might not be so much of an Eastern concept as it is a Western one’. 
Revolution in Civilization
Civilization starts on a blank, unexplored world map. The driving force for progress is discovery. Initially, the player will have to devote energy primarily to irrigating farmland and building granaries, hoping that neighboring city-states do not become too demanding. Gradually, discoveries are made that will transform society. One invention leads to another. It is up to the player to prioritize what should be invented first: for example, the alphabet and writing so legislation becomes possible, or ironworking and the wheel so chariots can be built.
The player starts in an unexplored fictional world and sets out to find a suitable location to establish a first settlement.
Population growth is desirable for increasing production and thus advancing civilization. But as cities grow, they require more care, specifically in supporting the population’s well-being. When the number of dissatisfied citizens exceeds the number of satisfied ones, social unrest threatens.
The game features several types of revolutions. The most frequent one is civil disorder, which is best described as social discontent, or a violent disruption of public order. The player can either try to keep the population happy with luxury and entertainment or apply military repression, but the latter works less well as society modernizes because military intervention does not permanently restore stability. That a civilization must put more and more energy into countering disturbances, and thus less into progress, points to underlying problems. These can often only be solved with political upheaval.
In pre-modern times a local unrest is depicted as a peasant uprising with pitchforks, in modern times as a protest march.
A crucial aspect here is the prevailing state form. Players can choose from a variety of government types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The agrarian society with which they start is in a state of despotism. With limited economic and personal freedoms, production is minimal, but despotism does allow them to ignore the needs of the people. Armed power suffices. As players progress through the game, they may find that their current government is no longer suitable for their civilization’s needs. Players must acquire specific technologies to ‘invent’ new forms of government to fit the evolving society.
Thus, players can choose to initiate a revolution, which allows them to change their government type and gain access to new technologies, policies, and bonuses. When a player selects the menu option ‘Revolution!’, society temporarily lapses into anarchy. Cities continue to function independently, but the progress of civilization comes to a halt until order is restored.
The player deems it is time for political change and selects the option ‘Revolution!’
Besides despotism and anarchy, the game distinguishes four state forms achievable through revolution, depending on the level of civilization already reached: monarchy, communism, republic, and democracy. Each form of government has pros and cons.
In a monarchy, the player’s rule is less absolute than before. The player, by then, has invented legislation, and so the king’s reign is somewhat regulated. The monarch leans on an aristocracy composed of upper-class inhabitants. This aristocracy withholds a portion of production as maintenance for military units and luxuries in the larger cities, at the expense of general happiness. The more distant a city is from the main residence or state capital, the less influence the government has.
When the player has discovered philosophy, communism also becomes possible. That form of government closely resembles monarchy, but the Communist Party restricts personal freedom and commerce even more strongly; on the other hand, there is no corruption of an aristocracy or influence of a royal court.
Through a newspaper headline, the player is informed about the new, post-revolutionary government, in this case a communist cabinet.
The state forms of republic and democracy allow more freedoms, resulting in growing trade and scientific progress. But they offer fewer opportunities for military power.
The republic resembles a federation: each city is a semi-autonomous state, which is also part of civilization. Diplomacy is subject to judgment by a parliament that can overrule government decisions. In addition, it accepts any peace offer from another civilization and prohibits any action that would initiate a war. If player deems war to be necessary, it must initiate a revolution to replace the unwilling people’s government with one that is more receptive to its war aspirations.
Finally, democracy is very similar to the republic, but in a democracy the people have an even stronger voice in determining the extent to which economic output is spent on improving living standards. Moreover, in a democracy with empowered citizens, the likelihood of revolution is much greater when the player acts too independently. With continuing dissatisfaction, the likelihood of a revolution breaking out anywhere becomes ever greater. Unlike the republic, there is a unitary state or nation-state (although these words do not appear in the game) in which citizens feel united with each other – the type of state that became the republican norm from the French Revolution onwards.
Revolutions can also happen when the circumstances are adverse. With a republican government, and even more so with a democracy, citizens become more assertive. When several cities are in turmoil for two turns in a row, there is a constant possibility of revolution, and thus anarchy, breaking out.
Lastly, revolutions can be used as a tool of war. The player can send diplomats to enemy cities to contact dissidents. Thus, for a hefty fee, local disorders can be instigated, and thereby indirectly influence a revolution. Also, as mentioned, a belligerent player can deliberately unleash a revolution in order to dissolve the parliament and declare war on neighboring civilizations at will.
The development of Colonization
After the success of Civilization, Meier had little interest in making a sequel. It was the 26-year-old programmer Brian Reynolds who took the initiative. Reynolds had previously developed some games as a teenager, before moving on to study history. He managed to obtain a doctoral fellowship at the University of California-Berkeley. An academic career was, however, not what he pursued. He enjoyed coding and transferring knowledge more than conducting academic research. Realizing that a university career was not for him, he focused on improving his coding skills, and sent a demo game to MicroProse. He was hired immediately.
Reynolds developed some adventure games but, due to impending redundancy, was allowed to work on his own projects during working hours. Reynolds began developing a Civilization-like game centered around the colonization of the Americas – one of his areas of interest. While in college, he had studied European expansion and the colonization of the New World, which was a major inspiration for the game he was developing. 
But as Reynolds looked back in 2023, he recalled his interest in this part of history had been sparked much earlier, as a child in the mid-to-late 1970s. He saw a series of short animations on television that used to run alongside commercial breaks on Saturday mornings called Schoolhouse Rock! (a widely known cultural phenomenon in the US but unfamiliar to non-Americans and therefore possibly little noticed), as a key cultural influence.  Reynolds points out that the episode “No More Kings” in fact recounts the story of his famous game in a nutshell.  Another well-known episode referring to the American revolution is “The Preamble”.  According to Reynolds, both shorts later inspired the later graphics of Colonization.
Schoolhouse Rock!, episode ‘No more kings’.
MicroProse wanted to expand on the success of Civilization and the company was excited when they heard of Reynolds’ side project. Meier was brought in as an advisor, and as his name would be attached to the game, monitored the process and passed on his design methods, training Reynolds as a game developer. 
Given the historical topic of the game, Colonization dealt with more ‘real-life’ historical events, compared to Civilization which does not relate to actual trajectories from the past. Colonization to a certain extent, needed to mimic history more faithfully. Therefore in the beginning of development Reynolds faced the enormous challenge of finding a middle ground between historical accuracy and respecting the player’s freedom of choice. As his mentor, Meier pointed out that, while developing Civilization, he learned that omitting parts of history (like the aforementioned recurring fall of civilizations) was a way to prevent frustrating players. But, in the words of Meier, ‘Good games don’t get made by committee’, thus he eventually left all decisions up to Reynolds. 
The final version of the game follows the well-known events of the American Revolution, but the historian in Reynolds saw him using his knowledge to fill gaps with many facts and details that were not present in US elementary or secondary curriculums, and therefore unknown to the wider public. Reynolds drew inspiration from robust historical studies he had read as a student, notably The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715 (1961) by John Horace Parry.  This book inspired Reynolds to determine that (unlike Civilization) trade and trade goods should be a principal theme of the game.
Parry’s book is listed in Colonization’s manual as ‘suggested reading’, supplemented by other historical studies. The most notable reference is James Axtell’s well-received historical-anthropological study, The European and the Indian: a Critical Study of the European Treatment of American Indians, that also pays attention to interactions between indigenous and colonial culture, especially in New England.  Native Americans are indeed portrayed sympathetically in Reynolds’ Colonization – perhaps a bit stereotypically by 2020s standards, but much more developed than earlier colonization games, like The Oregon Trail series from the 1970s and 1980s.
The great irony is that although it was in fact a historian who developed a fun video game that – within the limits of the genre – did justice to history, he was criticized for its (supposedly) arbitrary selection of past events. One reviewer, Gary Meredith, pointed out the absence of slavery. In the game manual’s historical overview, slavery is briefly mentioned – mainly of conquered native American tribes and three sentences about the Haitian Revolution of 1791.  Meredith deemed it inconsistent that in the game, the enslavement, and even extermination, of the indigenous population could be a profitable strategy when the player opts for the Spanish.  Meredith raised the rhetorical question of whether the fate of the Indians would somehow be more palatable than slavery.  Even more outspoken was Johnny L. Wilson, editor-in-chief of Computer Gaming World, ‘Removing the horrors of history from computer games may not be a grand conspiracy to whitewash history, but it may well be a dangerous first step’. 
Revolution in Colonization
In short, the goal of Colonization is to colonize parts of the Americas, spark a revolution and bring that revolution to a successful conclusion. It is obvious from the above that Reynolds was actually using a game as an interpretation of the American origin myth, specifically the American Revolution. The visual presentation of the game, the cover art of the CD-ROM and manual, illustrates this aspect – note that the sails of the ship carry the American Revolutionary flag.
Visually, the game resembles Sid Meier’s Civilization, but the gameplay is different. While inventions are important in Civilization, an underlying driving force in Colonization is keeping transatlantic trade going. Workers come from Europe, perform labor in America, and then the fruits of that labor (such as tobacco, furs and cane sugar) are sold back in Europe. Any profits must be invested in building colonies.
Each of the four colonial powers from which the player can choose (Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands) has its own specialties. The British ensure a greater supply of colonists, drawn by religious liberty. The Dutch can negotiate good prices for their wares. The Spanish are portrayed as aggressive conquistadores, with dire consequences for the indigenous population, while the French are good at building rapport with Native American tribes.
As the game progresses, the monarch in Europe starts making increasing financial demands in the form of colonial taxes on certain products. If the player protests, revolutionary enthusiasm grows among the colonists. The protest takes the form of variations on the Boston Tea Party – for example, when Dutch colonists refuse to pay taxes on ore, they throw all the ore into the harbor (a ‘New Amsterdam Ore Party’).
The prince in Europe demands extra taxes. It is up to the player to either comply to avoid sanction, or to refuse in order to stimulate further the revolutionary cause. Note that the character of the sovereign bears strong similarities to the British monarch as portrayed in the Schoolhouse Rock! episode “No More Kings”.
The player can also accumulate ‘liberty bells’ (the measure of the revolutionary spirit) in other ways. Founding churches, for example, increases religious freedom which leads to a greater supply of migrants. Establishing publishing houses and newspapers leads to more press freedom which also increases revolutionary fervor.
Over time, Founding Fathers are introduced as well, who come to live in the colony, giving impetus to the desire for independence. These include historical figures such as some of the drafters of the American Constitution, Simón Bolívar and Thomas Paine. Some less obvious figures are also introduced, such as Pocahontas, Johan de Witt and many sixteenth-century explorers.
With enough popular support, the revolutionary militia Sons of Liberty succeeds in rebelling, eventually fighting the colonial armies from Europe. Then, as in the board game Risk, it is a matter of tactically placing one’s military units to defend the colony and defeat the armies from the mother country. Upon successfully driving out the European troops, the player is treated to a brief animation of the ringing of the freedom bells in an unnamed tower. This building closely resembles Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where revolutionaries adopted the American Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July in 1776.
All in all, Colonization is a reasonably successful simulation of historical reality, within the technical limitations of 1994 and those of the game genre; many variables are included, such as trade, religion, politics and international relations. Players must decide for themselves how to proceed with this. The writer of the manual also boldly claims that players have the opportunity to ‘change history’, since they determine policy and priorities and decide whether or not to declare revolution. 
Whether history can be changed in the game, as the manual suggests, is questionable. The game automatically ends in the year 1800 if the player has not managed to unleash a War of Independence. To bring a revolutionary movement to a successful end, the player must necessarily follow the path of armed rebellion. Other scenarios for revolution are lacking. And should the revolutionary war be initiated in a timely manner, but not be brought to a successful conclusion by 1850, the game also ends. Thus, players fail when they do not follow through the historical scenario of American Revolution. The manual is quite explicit: ‘Any other result is considered inferior’. 
Returning to the subject of the games’ interpretation of the historical revolution concept, both offer their own take on revolutions in history, in terms of origins, trajectories and consequences. Revolution has a central place in the gameplay, but their operationalization of the concept differs from each other.
In Civilization, revolution is an inevitability: when discontent grows, there is no alternative manner for channeling it, especially when a certain level of civilization is reached. Furthermore, to reach new levels of civilization, the player needs to actively start a revolution from time to time. Thus, there is a correlation between the progress of the civilization process and the emergence of revolution(s). When no republican or democratic revolution is unleashed, it is difficult to bring the game to a successful conclusion, but the player is free to try all kinds of routes. Above all, revolution is presented as dynamic in Civilization.
In Civilization, revolution is ‘cleansing’, since new, ‘better’ forms of society can only be achieved through deliberate revolution. Revolution in the game also inspires: new state forms accelerate scientific innovations in turn. Revolution can also be used dictatorially, to bypass popular representation. Finally, revolution is a strategic means of destabilizing hostile civilizations.
Whilst revolutions in Civilization are a driving force, as well as a tool or gauge, in Colonization, it is the primary goal. Almost every choice a player makes either reinforces the revolutionary endeavor or inhibits it. Failure to initiate a revolution, or not steering it in the right direction, leads to irrevocable defeat. In a way, there is only one type of revolution: the American one. In spite of how the game is presented as a way to rewrite history, there are arguably four scenarios, in which Dutch, French and Spanish routes may differ slightly from the British in their emphases, but basically resemble the American Revolution.
Differences stem partly from history’s place in the video games. With Civilization, Sid Meier aimed above all to develop a video game that appealed to players’ pre-existing knowledge. Historical paths that deviate from ‘real’ history can be tricky, but not necessarily impossible or undesirable. Brian Reynolds, on the other hand, had to take a slightly different approach with Colonization. Although simulating history was not exactly the main goal, historical development had to be broadly followed in order for a game on the colonization of the Americas to make sense.
Which game most closely fits Jack A. Goldstone’s definition? Both present revolution in a way that corresponds to (elements of) Goldstone’s definition, but with numerous significant differences. Goldstone’s definition of revolution emphasizes references to social equality, mass mobilization and political change, which follow a period of unstable equilibrium, regardless of period in history. Indeed, in both games, there is dormant discontent that causes the equilibrium to become increasingly unstable, eventually leading to a violent overthrow of the old order.
Sid Meier’s Civilization most closely resembles the ideas of Goldstone, since the geographical and temporal reaches of Goldstone and Sid Meier’s Civilization are very broad. Revolutions come in many forms depending on the specific circumstances in time and place. Colonization, on the other hand, puts a lot of emphasis on the military route, and specifically the American situation, in interpreting revolution. In other words, paradoxically, Meier’s looser, less historical approach ultimately offers a more faithful portrayal of revolutions in world history, as defined by Goldstone.
 This article is an adaptation and update of a Dutch-language syllabus text accompanying the undergraduate course Revolutie! Politieke en culturele omwentelingen in historisch perspectief [Revolution! Political and cultural upheavals in historical perspective] of the Faculty of Humanities of the Open University of the Netherlands. https://www.ou.nl/en/-/cb5802_revolutie-politieke-en-culturele-omwentelingen-in-historisch-perspectief  Pieter de Bruijn, ‘Gespeelde geschiedenis: videogametechnieken en historische representatie’, Locus – Tijdschrift voor Cultuurwetenschappen 26 (2023). https://edu.nl/dxfdu  Marc Carpenter, ‘Replaying colonialism. Indigenous national sovereignty and its limits in strategic videogames’, American Indian Quarterly 45 (2021) 33-55, they're 34-35.  A call for a more academic approach to the creation of Civilization is Eric Kaltman, ‘The construction of civilization’, Kinephanos. Revue d'études des médias et de culture populaire (2014). https://www.kinephanos.ca/2014/civilization  Adam Chapman, ‘Is Sid Meier’s Civilization history?’, Rethinking History. The Journal of Theory and Practice 3 (2013) 312-332. https://doi.org/10.1080/13642529.2013.774719; John Majewski, ‘What do players learn from videogames? Historical analysis and Sid Meier’s Civilization’, The Public Historian 43 (2021) 62-81. https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2021.43.1.62  Kacper Pobłocki, ‘Becoming-state. The bio-cultural imperialism of Sid Meier’s Civilization’, Focaal. European Journal of Anthropology 39 (2002) 163-177.  R.G. Martín, B.C. Martínez en P.M. Domínguez, ‘The face of authority through Sid Meier’s Civilization series’, Gamevironments 13 (2020) 138-173. http://dx.doi.org/10.26092/elib/404  Jimmy Maher, ‘Ethics in strategy gaming, part 2: Colonization’, The Digital Antiquarian, 4 december 2020. https://www.filfre.net/2020/12/ethics-in-strategy-gaming-part-2-colonization/; Carpenter, ‘Replaying colonialism’; Souvik Mukherjee, Videogames and postcolonialism. Empire plays back (London 2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-54822-7  Compute! 11:1 (1989) 30-32. https://archive.org/details/1989-01-compute-magazine/page/n25/mode/2up?view=theater  ‘Graduation day for computer entertainment. The 7th International Computer Game Developers Conference’, Computer Gaming World 108 (1993) 34-38, there 38. https://web.archive.org/web/20140718110300/http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_108.pdf  Maher, ‘Ethics in Strategy Gaming, Part 2’.  ‘Graduation day for computer entertainment’, 38. See: https://web.archive.org/web/20140718110300/http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_108.pdf  As cited by ‘The history of Civilization’; Sam Mackovech, ‘Sid Meier tells Civilization’s origin story, cites children’s history books’, Ars Technica, 3 March 2017. https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/03/sid-meier-tells-civilizations-origin-story-cites-childrens-history-books/  Benj Edwards, ‘The history of Civilization’, Gamasutra, 18 July 2007. https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1523/the_history_of_civilization.php?print=1  The Guardian, 7 February 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/27/civilization-sid-meier-interview-starships  Richard Scott-Jones, ‘An excerpt from Sid Meier’s memoir! on the making of Civilization’, PCGamesN. https://www.pcgamesn.com/sid-meiers-memoir-civilization  Shelley, Civilization, 87.  As cited by ‘The history of Civilization’. https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1523/the_history_of_civilization.php?print=1; a very critical, and generalizing, analysis is David Praschak, Stefan Ancuta en Max F. Schmidt, ‘Strategy games as neoliberal historiography’ in: Emir Bektic e.a. ed., Mixed reality and games. Theoretical and practical approaches in game studies and education (Berlin 2020) 79-88.  Interview with Brian Reynolds. Podcast Designer. A podcast about why we make games 38, 24 April 2018 https://soundcloud.com/idlethumbs/dn38-brian-reynolds-part-1  E-mail from Brian Reynolds, 29 March 2023.  Schoolhouse Rock!, ‘No more kings’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHKJToDD0P0  Schoolhouse Rock!, ‘The preambule’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_NzZvdsbWI  ‘Brian Reynolds interview’, IGN, 12 February 2000. https://www.ign.com/articles/2000/02/12/brian-reynolds-interview-2  Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Life in Computer Games, as cited by Maher, ‘Ethics in strategy gaming, part 2’.  ‘Interview with Brian Reynolds, part 1’, Podcast Designer. A podcast about why we make games 38, 24 April 2018, 1m:7s. https://soundcloud.com/idlethumbs/dn38-brian-reynolds-part-1  James Axtell, The European and the Indian. Essays in ethnohistory of colonial North America (Oxford 1981).  Manual Colonization. Create a new nation. Instruction manual ([Hunt Valley] ) 104. https://archive.org/download/Sid_Meiers_Colonization_manual/Sid_Meiers_Colonization_manual.pdf  Given his approach, Sid Meier did not have to deal with this sensitive issue. The only non-playable characters in Civilization are generic ‘barbarians’, without explicit ethnicity, and with a certain level of civilization. Ted Friedman, ‘Civilization and its discontents. Simulation, subjectivity, and space’ in: Greg Smith ed., From discovering discs. Transforming space and genre [cd-rom].  Gary Meredith, ‘Sid Meier’s Colonization’, PC Gamer, January 1995. https://web.archive.org/web/20000226113638/http://www.pcgamer.com/reviews/943.html  As cited by ‘Ethics in strategy gaming’.  Manual Colonization, 2.  Ibidem, 11-12. http://lucasabandonware.free.fr/manuels/Colonization.pdf
About the author
Martijn van der Burg is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities of the Open University of the Netherlands. He specializes in the Age of Revolutions (c.1750-1850) and has spent many hundreds of hours playing both games discussed in his teens. Van der Burg is also an editor of Locus.
Martijn van der Burg ‘Scenarios for Revolution in Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991) and Sid Meier’s Colonization (1994)’, Locus – Tijdschrift voor Cultuurwetenschappen 26 (2023). https://edu.nl/ghppp
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.