We are used to science-fiction movies and books portraying Earth’s future. We are even used to playing video games on the same subject. But what about a vision of our future created by a man, who plays the same video game made to accurately portray our world for 10 years straight? This is certainly something new. Imagine the determination of this gamer, his loyalty to this particular version of the game when so many new came and went. And ask yourself the most intriguing question – what will our future look like? Well. It is basically hell. At least that is how Lycerius – the suddenly famous player, who just couldn’t stop playing Civilization II – describes it.
Sid Meier’s Civilization series is one of the most successful turn-based strategy games of all time. The first part was published back in 1991, and since then more than 10 continuations (including Civilization V published in September of 2010) have been made. Civilization II was released in 1996, but being a part of the successful series and depending on playability not graphics and effects – it is still popular more than 15 years from its release date, and has devoted fans.
First, let’s make one thing clear – Lycerius has a normal life, and plays other games – he is not a nerd who doesn’t have a life and spends every second with his beloved game. But he returns to Civilization II quite often, when he has some free time (because he simply likes the game not because he is obsessed with it). Even Sid Meier, the franchise creator admires Lycerius’s strange “accomplishment”. He would have never imagined that somebody could be continuously playing one game for so long. Meier also wonders, if playing Civilization V: Gods & Kings for 10 years would create the same world as playing Civilization II did, or maybe the outcome would be different. In other words: he wonders if it is human destiny to end up like Lycerius’s example showed it.
Let’s take a closer look at the world of the future through Lycerius’s eyes. It is the year 3991, so a pretty distant future. There are only 3 nations left – Vikings, Americans and Celts (Lycerius’s choice). These three superpowers annihilated and conquered every other state in the world. These empires are in the state of total, constant war with each other. The world does not remember stability and unity, as the last time there was peace was 1700 years ago. Nuclear weapons are being constantly used, therefore the world is devastated, the ice caps have melted down 20 (!) times, much of the land is now underwater, and 90% of world’s population died. There are no big cities, as most terrain has been exposed to nuclear attacks. The world looks like one, huge wasteland. That is quite a vision. And that is not the whole story yet.
Celts used to be the only democracy (Vikings and Americans are theocracies), but Lycerius decided to change this political system and adopt communism. That was the only way to protect his nation from the two other superpowers attacking him and constantly breaking peace treaties. If he had stayed with democracy, his country would have been torn apart. Democratic government spent too much time debating important motions (like “starting a war”) and relayed on peace treaties that were systematically broken by either Vikings or Americans. This meant Celts were unprepared for attacks and almost automatically lost their first battle. Adopting communism (or any other form of dictatorship for that matter) was the only way to protect their country from annihilation.
Being in a state of constant, total war means that Lycerius can’t take care of his subjects, can’t repair the roads, cities, can’t even think about crops. All his efforts concentrate on holding down his country – so he builds tanks not granaries. The simple result of this policy (shared by Vikings and Americans) is mass starvation. It also means the people all around the world hate their leaders, and would overthrow them if they could. But Lycerius is not a war-loving leader who can only think about oppressing his people. He would like to end his wars and take proper care of the Celtic nation, but he can’t do that, as long as his both opponents stop trying to destroy him in every turn. So, probably the only choice he has left is to destroy them before they will destroy him.
Quite a vision, isn’t it? And remember that Civilization was supposed to accurately depict our world of politics, that is, our civilization. So, maybe there is more to that vision than we think? Could it mean war is the destiny of humanity, and democracy must fall? For every apocalyptic thinker or conspiracy theorist Lycerius’s world is just another example confirming their beliefs. But I think there is yet another conclusion that everybody would find correct. The further we stray from democracy, the closer we get to war and suffering. Regardless of whether it is a video game or real life…