The most evil game in history

Some games are rather obviously bad. By bad, I don’t mean unplayable or silly, I mean “bad” as in “unrighteous”. Some of the latest games have very questionable themes, such as Grand Theft Auto which focuses on California gang life and the awakening of the drug epidemic brought on by crack cocaine where the player is encouraged to rob, rape and kill people to gain points. Some games, such as God of War or Gears of War have very realistic and gratuitous violence. Some games have gratuitous sex scenes, such as the alien/lesbian scene in Mass Effect and the baffling Leather Goddess of Phobos.

I haven’t played most of these games, mind you, so I’m not in a position to judge. But I have seen and heard snippets of these games around the Interwebs so I’m aware of what they’re about. I never really had the opportunity to play these games anyhow. My gaming career went straight from the first release of the Atari straight to the PS2 in 2006. Also, I’ve suffered from a combination of not being being able to afford a top of the line PC and new release games. I have to wait a few years for games to go on clearance before I consider buying them.

But there’s one game which is more evil than all these combined. It can suck a man in with its attractive and flattering game-play while at the same time sucking the life and soul out of him. It can make you lose focus on your career, your family and other commitments. It can keep you up until all hours of the night, and takes over your dreams when you do manage a few fitful hours of sleep. That game, or game series, is Civilization.

I made the mistake of stopping by Electronics Boutique the other night on the way home from work. On top of the pile of $12.50 games I saw Civilization IV. A flood of memories and nightmares swept over me. A voice at the back of my head was saying “Drop this and run as fast as you can”. But another louder voice was saying “Remember all the fun you had with version 1 in the early 90s! You can relive those days! Besides, it’s only $12.50.”

Indeed, I remember spending a lot of time on this game building the perfect empire and working my way through the more difficult levels so that I could say I had mastered the game. Often I would sit down to a game thinking to myself that I wouldn’t go past midnight and the next time I raised my eyes to look at the clock it read 5am.

So, I bought the game and took it home. After the kids went to bed I fired it up and convinced myself I’d just check out the gameplay and the interface. I wouldn’t start a game until later on when I had a couple days off and could afford to spend more than a few hours straight without having to wake up early the next day for work.

I really have to had it to Sid Meier. Civilization IV is a beautiful game and a great enhancement to the original. I missed Civ2 and Civ3, but saw a few demos on Youtube. I remember when Civ4 came out a few years ago there was a great buzz about it, but there was no way I was going to part with $110 to preorder it.

So, it’s 8pm and I start just poking about in the menus to see what’s what. Nice interface, nice music and a very sweetly familiar Civopedia which details all the units, buildings and improvements. I see they introduced the concept of Religion. I wonder how that works. Going to bed honey? Whoa it’s 9pm already?! OK I’ll be there in a jiffy. I just want to play a few turns on my new game.

It had started, and I hadn’t even realised it. Sid Meier had me in his evil clutches, was slowly twisting me as if wringing out a wet cloth and watching the life blood drip out of me onto the keyboard.

By the time I even considered looking at the clock it was already midnight.

I don’t know what it is, but this game is so highly addictive. It’s a time machine; I sit down and when I get up I find that I have traveled into the future without experiencing anything in between.

I paid for it the next day, too. I found it hard to sleep that night. I was dreaming about strategic alliances, and tactical warfare, and how best to go about spreading my Hindu religion. In a training meeting the next day my head was bob-bob-bobbing like one of those dippy ducks. Should I sell the game on ebay? Should I lock it away in a cupboard? I think that for me to get rid of this game it’s going to take a quest to Morder to throw it into Mount Doom.