My high school had a game called Civilization II on the computers in the library. I thought “a real game? On a school computer?! No way!” Because I admittedly found classes boring most of the time, I took every opportunity to play Civilization II. I’d had a mild predisposition towards history prior to this, but I credit the game with making me become much more invested, to the point it became a major hobby of mine. The school totally bamboozled me into learning for fun. Those sly devils!

You can probably see some relevance already, but why I feel this matters is that sometimes you have to engage with people in an unconventional way to initiate a lasting bond to the subject matter, especially with certain youths, like myself. While Civilization is a video game series before a teaching tool, it’s not without its merits in a number of ways. One big example of how it ties into the work we do at Heritage Abbotsford is by educating people on various heritage sites. There is a huge “Civilopedia” that teaches you a lot about history. And not just “the big things”. There’s one tab about how to play the game and over a dozen tabs with multiple drop-down sections that offer broad educational value.

Every aspect is generally well expanded upon should the user wish to learn more about the content, and it’s often spiced up with interesting, related quotes from famous people of various backgrounds. Anything from the history of the available civilizations, their leaders, buildings, technologies, policies, historical events, and so on. It’s like a little, focused Wikipedia website within a video game. Aside from the obvious scholastic merit from that, being that it’s all about strategy from a gameplay perspective, it makes your brain put in some extra work in other ways too.

At present, we’re up to Civilization VI (with a pair of expansions that added to it, with things like additional countries, wonders, and environmental factors). This entry is the origin of the screenshots I have included.

The beauty of this series is that it is not only a great way to Trojan Horse learning about world heritage into many more people’s daily lives in a fun way, but that it’s fairly accessible to just about anybody. How so? Well, for starters, it’s turn-based. You can take your time and do what you want then press the “next turn” button and the A.I. players do their thing and it’s back to you. That alone removes a huge barrier of entry. Secondly, there are built-in advisors that teach you the ins and outs pretty well. Thirdly, you can setup each game to your liking via a wealth of options (difficulty level, starting era, abundancy of resources, whether to include the pesky A.I. barbarians, the game’s speed, and many more) and each map is procedurally generated based on those factors and what type you choose (I.E: continents, islands, Pangaea, etc.). No two games are likely to ever be the same.

The basic premise is that you select your civilization of choice (they all have unique bonuses) and strive for a particular victory condition and out-compete and/or co-operate with others until you complete one of said conditions and win the game. There are about half a dozen, and they range from establishing a colony off-world (science) to taking everyone else’s capital city (domination). You build various facilities in and around your cities as you grow your civilization, while also balancing diplomatic, cultural, technological and other aspects. It sounds more complicated than it is, but once you get used to its systems, it’s a breeze. The above image is very-late game, and shortly after I (as Hungary) won with a science victory. It starts out much less… busy. Trust me.

Ultimately, I felt this was worth mentioning because I think it’s important for everyone to understand and appreciate cultural heritage and the reality is that some individuals will never be drawn to old books or guided tours. That’s just how it is. Civilization games are a great way to maybe encourage the less interested parties to embrace historical appreciation in a way that attracts them. That can potentially bring everyone together through a common interest, even shared via different mediums. It may very well result in somebody taking a tour or picking up a book they otherwise didn’t intend to seek out, but now their curiosity has been piqued.

This wasn’t a paid sponsorship or meant to conceal any sort of ulterior motive. I merely wanted to personally bring up Civilization VI (or even the older entries) as a recommendation to those who are interested in history and maybe want a new way to pass some time, or know a person that likes video games but has yet to discover the wealth of enjoyment heritage can provide if they let it. VI in particular is available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and iPhone, so it’s very accessible.