Sensing phantom phone vibrations is a strangely common experience. Around 80% of us have imagined a phone vibrating in our pockets when it’s actually completely still. Almost 30% of us have also heard non-existent ringing. Are these hallucinations ominous signs of impending madness caused by digital culture?
Civilization doesn’t have slaves, and some have criticized the game for that glaring historical omission. It’s a common trend in Meier’s works: although they cover history, they tend to omit the nastier parts. That’s just how Sid Meier makes games. It’s been that way from Civilization to SimGolf to any of the games he’s worked on in the two decades since.
“There’s a conflict between an emotionally-charged topic and kinda giving the player this freedom of choice that really makes the game good,” he said. “One of the things we really try to avoid in our games is this kind of—’this choice would be the right thing to do, but this choice is gonna help me win the game’—put the players in those kind of moral dilemmas. That’s not what our games are about. We want you to feel good about yourself when you finish the game.”
A feel-good, addictive experience with tons of interesting choices: that has become the definition of a “Sid Meier” game. Maybe that’s why they put his name on the box. There’s certainly value to video games that tell focused, morally-challenging stories—last year’s Spec Ops: The Line (published by 2K, the label behind Firaxis’s games) was lauded for just that reason—but Meier doesn’t want to make games like that. He wants to make the type of games that he wants to play.
Yet… to this day, Meier has yet to create a game as memorable or as significant as Civilization. After SimGolf was a remake of Pirates!, and then Meier designed the fourth Railroad Tycoon game, Railroads! Next was the console-friendly Civilization Revolutions, a Facebook game called CivWorld that shut down earlier this year, and Ace Patrol. All of these games, while generally good, have not stuck with people the way his magnum opus has. And although Meier told me he has no regrets—”Except that I didn’t think of Tetris.”—I imagine he must sometimes feel like Civilization is lording over him, daring him to make something with as much of an impact.
“When we made Civilization, it was not with the idea that this was gonna be the greatest game that we’re gonna be remembered by,” Meier said. “It was the best game to make at the time and we thought it was a lot of fun. Each game we make, we kinda go into it with that idea: this is gonna be the best game we can make on that topic. Some of them resonate stronger with game players; maybe some not as much. I don’t have a formula for making a super-memorable game. It’s just that we keep making the best games that we can.”