Playing the Game

Playing the Game: The Culture of Digital Games

Civilization II

Civilization is a turn-based strategy game originally created by Sid Meier in 1991. Players control a fledgling civilization such as the Aztecs, Romans, English, et al. Beginning in 4000BC with just a single settler, the objective is to build an empire - by means of exploration, colonization, scientific research and diplomacy - which will last into the 21st centry. Civilization II, revised by Brian Reynolds, was released in 1996. There have since been three more updates, Civilization III (2001), Civilization IV (2005), and Civilization V (2010).

Additional information about the Civilization series is available on Wikipedia. An introductory worksheet entitled 'How to Play Civilization II' is available here.


The following articles discuss different aspects of the Civilization series. If you find any more please .
Atkins, Barry (2005). La Storia è Un’Assurdità: Civilization come esempio di barbarie storiografica? [History is Bunk?: Historiographic Barbarism in Civilization.] In: Matteo Bittanti (ed.) Civilization: Storie Virtuali, Fantasie Reali. Valentina Paggiarin, trans. Milan: Costa & Nolan, pp. 65-81. On Civilization's approach to history, its educational promise, and the pleasures and value of exploratory rather than competitive play.
Bevc, Tobias (2007). Konstruktion von Politik und Gesellschaft in Computerspielen? [The Construction of Politics and Society in Computer Games?] In: Bevc, Tobais (ed.) Computerspiele und Politik: Zur Konstruktion von Politik und Gesellschaft in Computerspielen. Berlin: Lit Verlag, pp. 25-54. Bevc analayses a number of games, including Civilization, from a political science perspective.
Bittanti, Matteo (ed.) (2005). Civilization: Storie Virtuali, Fantasie Reali. Valentina Paggiarin, trans. Milan: Costa & Nolan. An Italian collection of essays on the Civilization series.
Bitz, Bako (2002). The Culture of Civilization III. 15 January. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. A thoughtful critique of the treatment of culture in Civilization III.
Burns, Alex (2002). Civilization III: Digital Game-Based Learning and Macrohistory Simulations. Retrieved 16 August 2008 from here.
Carr, Diane (2007). The Trouble with Civilization. In: Atkins, Barry and Krzywinska, Tanya (eds) Videogame, Player, Text. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. Response to ideological critiques of Civilization by Poblocki, Myers, Lammes and Douglas, which argues that no conclusions regarding the game's effect on players can be drawn from just textual readings.
Chick, Tom, Meier, Sid, and Shelley, Bruce (2001). The Fathers of Civilization: An Interview with Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley. CG Online, 31 August . Retrieved 30th May  2007 from here. Includes discussion of the early development of Civilization, its design and mechanics, and (briefly) its politics.
Chick, Tom (2002). The Teaching Game: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Civilization. Computer Games Magazine. January. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. A short, wry article ridiculing the claim that Civilization is realistic or educational.
Coleman, Terry and Meier, Sid. (1998). The Sid Meier Legacy. Gamespot. Retrieved 6th August 2005 from here. Reprinted by Thunderfall (2000). Civilization Fanatics' Center. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. An overview of Sid Meier's games from 1984 to 1997, incorporating an interview about each game. Includes brief discussions of Civilization and Civilization II.
Douglas, Christopher (2002). "You Have Unleashed a Horde of Barbarians!": Fighting Indians, Playing Games, Forming Disciplines. Postmodern Culture 13.1 (September). Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here and here. Douglas explores the Civilization series' implicit ideologies (of colonization, culture, technology, equality) within the context of the emerging discipline of digital game studies.
Edwards, Benj (2007). The History of Civilization. In: Gamasutra (18 July 2007). Retrieved 30th August 2010 from here. An overview of the Civilization series, followed by an interview with Sid Meier.
Friedman, Ted (1999). Civilization and Its Discontents: Simulation, Subjectivity, and Space. In: Smith, Greg (ed.) On a Silver Platter: CD-ROMs and the Promises of a New Technology. New York: New York University Press, pp. 132-150. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here and here. An exploration of player subjectivity whilst playing Civilization: you identify with the computer and enter into a 'cyborg consciousness'. Simulation games take geography as the narrative's protagonist.
Galloway, Alexander R. (2004). Playing the Code: Allegories of Control in Civilization. Radical Philosophy 128 (Nov-Dec), pp. 33-40. Reprinted as: Allegories of Control. In: Galloway, Alexander R. (2006). Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 85-106. Galloway argues that digital games, including Civlization, are "allegories" of today's information society, fetishizing control and resisting traditional ideological critique.
Henthorne, Tom (2003). Cyber-Utopias: The Politics and Ideology of Computer Games. Studies in Popular Culture 25.3 (April). Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. Assesses the utopian and ideological aspects of SimCity, Civilization and especially Alpha Centauri. As utopias these games allow players to rethink how power is distributed and exercised, though they also betray the ideological assumptions of their designers.
Jenkins, H. and Squire K. (2003). Understanding Civilization III. Computer Games (September, 2003). Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. Brief account of Squire's experience using Civilization III to teach social studies in schools, emphasising the contingency of historical events, the ideological biases of games, and their capacity for encouraging critical reflection.
Kapell, Mathew (2002). 'Civilization and its Discontents: American Monomythic Structure as Historical Simulacrum'. Popular Culture Review 13.2 (Summer): pp. 129-35. Civilization articulates imperialist American myths of progress and expansion into new frontiers, as described by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner.
Lammes, Sybille (2003). On the border: pleasures of exploration and colonial mastery in Civilization III Play the World. In: Marinka Copier and Joost Raessens, eds. Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference Proceedings (CD-ROM). Utrecht: University of Utrecht, pp. 120-129. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. A discussion of colonialism within Civilization  III.
Mäyrä, Frans (2008). Civilization (1991): Ideological Simulation or Just Strategic Play? In: An Introduction to Game Studies: Games in Culture. London: Sage, pp. 95-101. Short discussion which reviews much of the critical literature on Civilization.
Meier, Sid (2004). Commentary from Sid Meier. In: Demaria, Rusel and Wilson, Johnny L. High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Games. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill/Osborne. A brief commentary by Meier on each of his key games, including a few paragraphs on Civilization and Civilization III. Much shorter than Coleman and Meier.
Miklaucic, Shawn (2003). God Games and Governmentality: Civilization II and Hypermediated Knowledge. In: Bratich, Jack Z., Packer, Jeremy, and McCarthy, Cameron (eds.) Foucault, Cultural Studies, and Governmentality. New York: SUNY Press, pp. 317-35. Miklaucic analyses simulation and strategy games, especially Civilization II, relating Bolter and Grusin's (1999) notion of hypermediacy and Foucault's understanding of surveillance and governmentality.
Myers, David (2003). The Nature of Computer Games: Play As Semiosis. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Chapter 13 (pp. 131-146) discusses the Civilization series at length.
Myers, David (2005). Bombs, Barbarians, And Backstories: Meaning-Making Within Sid Meier's Civilization. In: Matteo Bittanti (ed.) Civilization: Storie Virtuali, Fantasie Reali. Trans. Valentina Paggiarin. Milan: Costa & Nolan. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. A difficult but rewarding article which argues that the 'backstory' of Civilization is irrelevant to understanding its playability as a game.
Poblocki, Kacper (2002). Becoming-State: The bio-cultural imperialism of Sid Meider's Civilization. Focaal: European Journal of Anthropology 39, pp. 163-177. Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. Discusses the political ideologies and cultural imperialism of successive versions of Civilization, in which the player implicitly colludes. 
Squire, Kurt (2002). Cultural Framing of Computer/Video Games. Game Studies 2(1) (July). Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here.
Squire, Kurt (2004a). Replaying History: Learning World History through playing Civilization III (PhD thesis). Indiana University. Retrieved 7th August 2005 from here.
Squire, Kurt (2004b). Sid Meier’s Civilization III. Simulation and Gaming, 35(1), pp. 135-40. Largely descriptive review of Civilization III, focusing particularly on what Squires sees as the game's largely untapped potential as an educational tool.
Squire, Kurt, Shree Durga and Ben Devane (2009). Civilization 4. In: Drew Davidson (ed.) Well Played 1.0: Video Game, Value and Meaning. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press. Retrieved 13th June 2009 from here. Account of a Civilization 4 game and its educational significance.
Stephenson, William (1999). The Microserfs are Revolting: Sid Meier's Civilization II. Bad Subjects 45 (October). Retrieved 23rd April 2007 from here. A short, lucid, Marxist analysis of the dubious ideologies and subversive potential of Civilization.
Tyler, Tom (2009). The Test of Time: McLuhan, Space and the Rise of Civilization. In: Dobrin, S. and S. Morey (eds.) Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, and Nature. New York: SUNY, pp. 257-77. Retrieved 22nd June 2009 from here. An analysis of Civilization, and digital games more generally, in terms of McLuhan's notion of acoustic space.
Wark, McKenzie (2007). Gamer Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved 3rd May 2007 from here. Chapter 3 ('America') briefly addresses Civilization III, considering the game's algorithmic treatment of space and time.
Weiß, Alexander (2007). Computerspiele als Aufbewahrungsform des Politischen: Politische Theorie in Age of Empires und Civilization. [Computer Games as Storage Form of the Political: Political Theory in Age of Empires and Civilization.] In: Bevc, Tobais (ed.) Computerspiele und Politik: Zur Konstruktion von Politik und Gesellschaft in Computerspielen. Berlin: Lit Verlag, pp. 77-97. Following a discussion of truth in theoretical and fictional texts, Weiß examines Age of Empires and Civilization.


The following websites contain extensive Civilization resources and discussion.
Apolyton. Includes Civilization spin-offs and an active forum.
Civilization III. Official Civilization III website produced by Firaxis Games.
Civilization IV. Official Civilization IV website produced by Firaxis Games.
Civilization Fanatics Centre. Covers all four Civilizations.

System Requirements

The official minimum requirements to install and play Civilization II are:
166 MHz Pentium or faster processor
Windows 95 or 98 with DirectX
High-color graphics (640 x 480 resolution, 16- bit color with 2 MB video RAM)
4x CD-ROM drive
60 MB hard disk space
DirectX compatible sound card