Sid Meier’s Colonization

Abstract

My essay addresses Sid Meier’s Colonization, the oft-forgotten first sequel to Civilization. Released in 1993, Colonization places its player in the role of a colonial leader in the New World, starting in 1492, with a choice between four historically dominant nations. This game is inherently troubling. Its object is to grow crops, earn money, build a colonial foothold in the New World and – most importantly – carry out genocide, wiping out the player’s choice of Indian tribes that already inhabit these Americas. They inevitably get in the way of deforestation, road-building, and seizure of land. All of these activities reflect historical colonization, and all of them contributed to the eradication of Native American livelihood.

These native peoples serve as obstacles to what progress the game Colonization requires, and they must be either manipulated or destroyed during the course of it. My essay examines the implications of this, and investigates the effects of making the average player of strategy games into a regular Hernan Cortes. Is it, for instance, troubling that when one plays this game the Tupi tribe quickly become irritants expressly to be exterminated? Does it attest to the brilliance of such a colony simulation, that these impulses become second nature to the player? Colonization’s relevance surpasses this factor. Slaves are conspicuously absent from Sid Meier’s colonial depiction, for instance, and events like colonial revolution and missionary expeditions are treated as inevitable. My essay addresses the limitations that a game like this places on its player, with its not-astoundingly-more-complex-than-a-chessboard playing field and its consistent formula in the face of an infinitely variable New World. Ultimately, it seems that Sid Meier’s creation is an ideal simulation of colonization, a game that by placing its player in the seat of a colonist leads him to think explicitly like a conqueror, with all of the greed and bloodthirstiness this entails.

Sid Meier’s Colonization was released in 1994 and designed mostly not by Sid Meier, but by Brian Reynolds and Jeff Briggs (Coleman). Its subject is Europe’s conquest of the New World. It represents and simulates what is perhaps one of the coldest and most brutal phases in world history and, as Josaphat Kubayanda states, “representation cannot be a neutral undertaking” (9).

Colonization is much like its prequel, the original Civilization. The player looks out on an overhead, two-dimensional view of his territory and controls his people, who procreate incessantly. The map is divided into spaces, each one featuring plains or forests, a river or some hills. In some spaces we will place colonies, in others we will gather armies, in others colonists will go fishing and harvest tobacco. All the while, Indians of various tribes shuffle about, and three other European nations are working nearby, roasting the natives where they live, founding missions, fighting wars with us and amongst each other. Colonization recreates itself anew each time we begin the game. It would be hard to generate two maps that look the same. The randomness and unpredictability make for a game that can be played over and over, quite differently every time.

Despite these many variables, every time we play the game we have to simulate the same events over and over. We have to sail our ships into shallow water, to the shores of the American continent. We must land and found a colony. We have to build churches, forts and newspaper buildings. Growing crops is essential for making money, as boats haul sugar or the rum that it yields to Europe, and return with more guns. The king of whatever nation we choose to hail from (choices are France, England, Spain and the Netherlands) grows gradually too demanding, so we have to boycott certain goods from Europe and, ultimately, fight a revolution and finish the game. Most importantly, we must hunt and murder vast numbers of those who are ethnically different from the colonists we command. Although not in an especially graphic way, this game is soaked with blood.

Postcolonial literary theory traces the implications of literature into the reinforcement of imperialist ideas and frames of mind. As a cultural production concomitant with imperialism, the novel for one is implicated with that practice. Edward Said writes that novels “were immensely important in the formation of imperial attitudes, references, and experiences” (xii). It is not unreasonable to imagine that a computer game like Colonization, which portrays colonial exploitation and subjugation even more intimately for us by placing the player in the role of the colonizer, can be looked at in a similar light. J. A. Mangan studies the way games at England’s public schools fed the fledgling imperial ambitions of young Britons. Certainly a game like Colonization can take on a similar role, making the present-day colonial ambitions and actions of the United States appear to be unremarkable and acceptable, by handing over simulated colonial responsibilities to its players.

In his book Culture and Imperialism, Said gives some deserving attention to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Much of what he writes about the novel can be applied to Colonization. He writes,

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Marlow and Kurtz are […] creatures of their time and cannot take the next step, which would be to recognize that what they saw, disablingly and disparagingly, as a non-European ‘darkness’ was in fact a non-European world resisting imperialism so as one day to regain sovereignty and independence, and not, as Conrad reductively says, to reestablish the darkness. (30)

This takes on at least a kind of novel relevance, in the fact that at the game’s outset the entire map of the New World consists of utter blackness; nothing there has yet been explored, and nothing, to us as players, exists there. The computer may not have even invented the coastline yet, just as Conrad’s protagonist sees Africa’s coast as a shady anomaly.

Said remarks as well on elements of Conrad’s work that reflect directly onto the player of Colonization. He writes, “Conrad’s narrators are not average unreflecting witnesses of European imperialism. They do not simply accept what goes on in the name of the imperial idea: they think about it a lot, they worry about it, they are actually quite anxious about whether they can make it seem like a routine thing” (29). The player of Colonization is potentially not unlike Conrad’s protagonist, as Said describes him. Certainly a player can behave within the game as this unreflective conqueror, can play the game without really thinking about it much, but at any moment she may also begin to ponder the dreadful implications of this simulated conquest and annihilation.

The game’s structure does more than place a player in the position of Conrad’s narrator. Said writes, “Being on the inside shuts out the full experience of imperialism, edits it and subordinates it to the dominance of one Eurocentric and totalizing view” (Said 28). The player of Colonization sits not at any heart of darkness, or at the mouth of a river leading to it, but can instead view it in full, with total control over a large proportion of the activity there. When we play Colonization, we are in a position of responsibility over its title endeavor, and thus one of culpability – albeit simulated.

With this in mind, a player might try to play Colonization with a conscience. When someone takes control of these simulated New World colonies, starting in the late fifteenth century, and takes on the great responsibilities that this role entails, including genocide and manipulation of the natives, it can be tempting to resist that.

Sid Meier left slavery completely out of this interpretation of the settlement of the New World. This is objectionable, without a doubt. In the present-day world that would result from the New World as Colonization portrays it, African-Americans would hardly exist. I would not go so far as to assert this as the appeal of the game, or of games like it, but it is worth noting. D. K. Fieldhouse points out that “Metropolitan nationalists twist facts to highlight the achievements of their own country; counter myths are fostered in one-time colonies to provide an ideological basis for nationhood” (84). This conspicuous absence of slaves – the victims of American colonialism who in reality made their success so vast and who perhaps suffered their worst prolonged atrocity – could easily be said to take part in this, if only a small one.

It would cross an important line, however, to ask the player of Colonization to shuffle African slaves by point-and-click across the overhead map and put them to work in fields and silver mines. It would be hard to miss the villainy there. Conquest of the Indians, on the other hand, slips more easily under a player’s ethical radar, because war is a regular computer game element, and a player of one expects it. It is not unreasonable to want to excuse the game’s creators for wanting to keep within the bounds of acceptable computer game atrocity.

Failing to admit the institution of slavery as an element in colonization is certainly a disturbing move, and skews the accuracy of Colonization a portrayal of its subject. However, the fact that there is a place in this game for the purchase and abuse of slaves, from which the slaves themselves can be conspicuously absent, should draw our attention to the disturbing nature of the game as a whole.

Ken Fishkin indicates that a “brou-ha-ha” has gone on – or has done whatever it is a brou-ha-ha does – over this absence of slavery, but he points out that neither is there an acknowledgment of Native American slavery. Instead, Indians convert in the game to Christianity, and join a colony by supposed choice.

To leave slavery out of Colonization is troubling, but this game does admit the extermination of native peoples, and that is the game’s primary concern. The true stars of Colonization are not the European pioneers and soldiers, their little cookie-cutter figures shuffling across the glorified chess board. Nor is it the king, who breezes in once in a while to raise the tax rate. This game primarily concerns the Indians, a player’s prime obstacle to prosperity in the New World.

Various Native American tribes dot the computer-screen landscape. The Tupi and the Sioux are some of the less advanced peoples. The Iroquois and Arawak are of greater significance, and yield more money when we burn down their villages. The Aztec and Inca nations are supreme – they represent the pinnacle of New World fauna, the land’s most rewarding enemies. The greatest challenge for a player of Colonization is to deal with the Indians, and this always involves some extent of murdering them, or watching them be wiped out by another nation.

We can try to be nice to Colonization’s Indians. We ply them with gifts; we share our food with them when they ask for it; we pay them for their land, rather than take it from them forcibly. The cordial approach cannot last, however. At some point, we have built one road too many, we have treasure-hunted on a burial ground. The Indians start attacking. They kill a blacksmith. They burn down the church we spent twenty years putting up. What choice have we but to retaliate, to burn every village to the ground, to exterminate all the brutes? Their blood soaks the fields where we grow tobacco, and with their gold we purchase artillery. As Albert Memmi points out, “humanitarian romanticism is looked upon in the colonies as a serious illness, the worst of all dangers” (21). This is also the case in our simulated colonies. The necessities of imperialism edge out our better intentions.

Sid Meier’s game demands that we abandon this “humanitarian romanticism.” Jean-Paul Sartre states that the colonizer “must assume the opaque rigidity of stone. In short, he must dehumanize himself” (xxviii). Sartre is, of course, referring to the real-life colonizer, not someone playing out a simulation of colonization on a computer. It might be hard to accept that some office temp who wants to kill time during his lunch hour by absently playing a game like Colonization is turning himself to stone, exactly. Since a computer game only takes up a small, diversionary fraction of someone’s daily life, it is hard to accept that it can change an entire person to a cold dominator of subjugated peoples. Still, if someone devotes only one fragment of his attention to Colonization, that fragment of himself has taken on a ruthless purpose, and is subject to whatever his role might do to him.

Sid Meier’s game treats a thing like the eradication of Indians as inevitable. Unless one goes to great lengths, there is no way to play the game without murdering a lot of natives. Even if a player refrained as best he could, the computer who controls the other Europeans would take its opportunity to commit this genocide. Memmi writes, “while refusing the sinister, the benevolent colonizer can never attain the good, for his only choice is not between good and evil, but between evil and uneasiness” (43). The Indians get slaughtered every time we play this game, whether our people participate or not.

If Gandhi and Machiavelli were given total sway over the real-life seventeenth-century New World, each would offer a dramatically different outcome. So we would hope. If each of them played Colonization the computer game, their separate outcomes would hardly differ at all. The game offers a slim range of choices, and can vary only a little each time one plays. There is no room here for Socialist, agrarian experiments or nonviolent cooperation with the Indians. Rather, we must constantly make more money, and the Indians must die. Paul Bove, in remarking on “modernity’s dominant narratives,” points out the “impossibility” within them of “imagining a world without empire” (3). Colonization slumps into this tendency with ease. Certain events in the game, like the revolution that always ends it, are inevitable. This is true in any computer game, of course, especially in an old one.

It is ultimately rather poignant, though, that Colonization offers no complex possibilities, no alternatives to exploitation. The game begins with an assumption, that on the cusp of the 16th century some Europeans might look west and see a lot of people worth crushing underfoot, and resources worth stealing from them. The game puts us in the place of these warmongers, and we must act as they did.

If weplay this game obsessively enough, we begin to think like colonists. Life would be easier for us – within the game – if there were no Indians. We get vengeful and bloodthirsty, and greedy. This is not to suggest that a warmongering player makes for a bloodthirsty person in everyday life. As Kurt Squire points out, “Despite (and perhaps because of) the hundreds of hours I've spent playing war games, I'm pretty much a pacifist. I love Return to Castle Wolfenstein, yet I'd never own a gun” (“Framing”). The player’s vile tendencies are confined to the game, though there are some wider-scale implications.

I would not claim that if enough United States citizens were to play Colonization long and absorbedly enough then our country would turn into one where everyone thinks like a colonist, and our nation would become very suddenly an imperialist one. There is no need to suggest that; a colonizing nation is exactly what we already are. As Said states it:

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The United States is no ordinary large country. The Unites States is the last superpower, an enormously influential, frequently interventionary power nearly everywhere in the world. Citizens and intellectuals of the United States have a particular responsibility for what goes on between the United States and the rest of the world, a responsibility that is in no way discharged or fulfilled by saying that the Soviet Union, France, or China were, or are, worse. (54)

Certainly Colonization the game can be implicated in colonization the practice, as it is currently acted out. Just as Said efforts to clarify the implications of the novel in British imperialism, this computer game can easily be seen to reinforce American imperialism, if only on a smaller scale than a canonized, widely read novel like Heart of Darkness. As Said puts it, “cultural forms like the novel or the opera do not cause people to go out and imperialize” (81). They can serve a purpose, alternatively, by making us aware of imperialism in an immediate sense, as long as we are willing to make the proper connections.

The ending to Colonization can be taken in several ways. When the American Revolution succeeds and we are rewarded with a graphic that features hats thrown in the air, and victory fireworks in a night sky, the celebration takes on an ominous tone when one considers what might follow it. The player has learned to colonize, to dominate and to do so independently. R. W. Van Alstyne makes it clear that the real United States has had imperial ambitions since its very inception; he writes, “Even as early as March 1783 the United States was, to [George] Washington, a ‘rising empire’” (1). That is exactly the independent state we have won in the end – one with its guns aimed outward in all directions, ready to begin new conquests.

We should not fault Sid Meier for treating ruin and genocide as inevitabilities. Tunnel vision is necessary in a computer game. It is a simulation, and this one enacts it brilliantly. The game demands that a player take on the impulses of real-life colonization. It can make a gentle, nonviolent player of computer games into an Indian-killer, just as the roles of overseeing the New World purportedly did to their holders several hundred years ago. As Memmi states it, “The economic meaning of a colonial venture, even if it is realized after arrival, thrusts itself upon us no less strongly, and quickly” (4). Sid Meier enacts this by programming a computer’s behaviors and its minute reactions to a player’s actions. There is an accomplishment in that.

A proper sequel to Colonization might devote itself to the American seizure of Mexican territories, or the invasion of Iraq. There are, of course, games that take place at these moments, and this view of Colonization has potential to offer insights into them. Van Alstyne argues that Northern victory in the Civil War solidified American imperialism, as it established a precedent for forcible appropriation of people and territory. It is appropriate, then, that Sid Meier followed Colonization with Gettysburg!, a game simulating the Civil War (Coleman). The New World that the player owns at game’s end is a ravaged one, and the methods used in order to effect this can spell only a similar ruin for the rest of the planet, for the parts that Sid Meier’s map leaves poignantly out.

References

Bove, Paul. "Introduction." Edward Said and the work of the critic: speaking truth to. London: Duke University Press, 2000.
Kubayanda, Josaphat. "On Colonial / Imperial Discourse and Contemporary Critical Theory." Discovering the Americas: 1992 Lecture Series. College Park: University of Maryland, 1990.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. "Introduction." The Colonizer and the Colonized. By Albert Memmi. Boston: Beacon Press, 1965.
Squire, Kurt. Reframing the Cultural Space of Computer and Video Games. Vol. 2006. Games-to-Teach Research vVision, 2006. The Education Arcade, 2001.

Colonization download link

I've found this download site for old Colonization game:Colonization download

More difficult levels

On the easy, introductory levels, your depiction seems accurate -- Indian villages are things to be destroyed, because they are in the way of your speedy development. But on the higher difficulty levels, I always found that the tax rate for trade with Europe quickly becomes so horrendously high that Indian villages are really your only viable late-game trade partners, and I learned that destroying the Indians has short-term benefits but long-term consequences. Except the Arawaks who were needlessly and ridiculously aggressive. :)

I enjoyed your article; I just ended up with a different strategy in the end -- not that such a strategy was obvious. Perhaps once you wiped out an Indian tribe, the plain message "The Tupi tribe has been wiped out" could have been followed with "Are you sure you won't want to trade with them later?"

-Chris

one more thing..

Quote:
The Indians get slaughtered every time we play this game, whether our people participate or not.

I didn't mean to leave out that this is a great point you make -- even if we want to keep the Indians alive (which I think we do), we are rarely in a position where we can protect them from the Spaniards. I don't dispute the main ideas you put forward here. Thanks for the essay!

Video Games

As has been pointed out there are in game consequences for thoughtlessly wiping out the Indians.

Perhaps the whole idea of a colonization game is just so inherently repugnant that it should never have been made. But if you are going to make this game how do you make it better? How do you provide some historical accuracy--there was conflict between the Indians and European settlers, and as horrible as it is, the European settlers did systematically and often callously wipe out the Indian nations--while maintaning political correctness--as your essay says point and click slavery would not be an appropriate message to send either? Why do you villify the game both for being sensitive to the fact that including slavery would be inappropriate and for choosing to include the historical accuracy of a European conquest of the Indian tribes--with in-game consequences for the player who thoughtlessly wipes out the indians (They make good allies and trading partners at the end of the game if you choose a less hostile route). Maybe the game designers could have included slavery in a way that was inoffensive and educational and gave recognition to how critical the African American contribution was to the development of the USA, but I doubt it and I would imagine that had they included slavery this essay would lambaste the game just as vigorously for including slavery as it now does for excluding it.

For all its supposed ills, this game provides some historical insight and even education. What do we learn from the often ethnically motivated violence in GTA genre of games? Or from the mildly historical if often wildly inaccurate Call of Duty games and other war genres that glorify the death and destruction of war?

There is no "redeemable"

There is no "redeemable" quality about a game that glorifies colonialism. This is a legacy that needs to be decried and deconstructed in the States, not made the object a strategic conquest. I love RTSs and TBSs but good gameplay does not makeup for a point of view which is from a white Imperialist perspective. There is no "better" version of this game. If you wanted to "educate" gamers then create a game from the point of view of Native American groups being the victims of genocide, one by one, instead creating some orgasmic fantasy world where Americans can kill ancestral people of color again and again, as if one time wasn't enough. No one plays these games to become "educated," its to live out a fantasy scenario involving romantic ideas of American expansion and settlement that implicitly and explicitly involves killing Native Americans. This isn't about, as you blandly call, "political correctness"--its that games that honor the colonial legacy from the perspecitve of the colonizers show that we, as historic and now contemperary imperialists, have not changed our ethic or rationale at all since those days. Americans would oppress and kill people of color at a whim, or at least, we would like to, and this must be challenged, not acted out.

I Disagree

Hi Sledge,

I disagree with your appraisal of videogames that depict colonization. While I understand your concerns, I think that importing post-colonial theory to read the game as a 'text' does very little to explore what players actually do with such games, and how they understand the games as representing something in the 'real world'.

There are a variety of publications on this issue and I recommend the work of William Urrichio and Anna Everett on this issue.

A more extended version of my position can be found here: http://tomsresearch.googlepages.com/virtualunaustralia_apperley.pdf
I welcome your feebdack and or comments.

Lambaste

You're right. The weakest part of my essay is probably that point about slaughtering the Indians; there are more charitable ways, in the game, to work with them. But I would also argue that even in the bartering that a player undertakes with them, the object is to get as much out of them for the lowest cost. The greater point is that - fair trade or none - in the end, the Indians lose out. Their homes are invaded, they are continually edged off of the map, and the most charitable way to approach the Indians in Colonization would be to never land in the New World and to leave them alone. But that wouldn't be much of a game.

When I was a young man and I wrote this essay, I didn't want to make Colonization the game out to be some kind of abomination, or suggest that it shouldn't have been made. That it did come across that way I ascribe to the clumsiness of youth. All I wanted was to raise questions about it that occurred to me during the many hours I spent playing it, like: by playing a game that pits us against other European invaders to exploit a continent for the most resources, do we then, like the real-life invaders involved in actual colonization, implicate ourselves as guilty participants in an ugly system, even if the system is simulated? And does it make that implication a little more real when the events in Colonization actually took place, approximately?

Ultimately, I want to side with Colonization and the portrayal of its titular system of exploitation. It simulates exactly what colonization was (minus slavery) in the New World, and places us in the position of a participant in it. It doesn't give us options to be very nice to the Indians, because that wasn't an option for many of the actual, historical colonizers. The game consists of exactly what the title indicates it will. It places us in a position of authority over things, but it also limits that power in ways that I think are poignant and worth noticing.

I also think Colonization can be more poignant than this, because - at least for those of us in the US - we live in a country that currently occupies several important other countries, and we have a military presence in lots more countries than that. So that playing Colonization and playing the role of a colonizer becomes even more suspect. It either exacerbates the problems inherent in playing Colonization, and makes the game out to be worse than it is; or it points out how important it is that we comprehend that system, and understand it, making Colonization the game seem to be even more important, and useful.

I don't think my essay "lambastes" Colonization at all. It's possible to raise questions about something without trying to make it look bad, and I made no effort to vilify the game or its creators. I don't have time for that.

I really like the game Colonization

I think the essay speaks for itself. However, I really like the game. As Americans we celebrate the birth of our nation. It could not have happened except through colonization.

The game provides four political choices to play with. The Spanish are geared (within the game) to model their historic counterparts and are given bonuses to make attacking the native settlements more appealing. The Dutch are given bonuses to make trade more profitable. The English are given a bonus to making building cities easier, or faster at least. The French are given bonuses to encourage NOT attacking the natives. Again, all are based on historical political policies. The reasons for these policies are myriad and not necessary to discuss at this time.

The argument that slavery doesn't exist in the game has two items of interest that I feel I should comment on. First, not every aspect of history is closely modeled. For one, the plagues of Europe ravaged entire native civilizations, yet not included in the game. This is a fine example that not all important facts need be included in a game. Indeed, the game must have a limit to it's design.

Secondly, slavery is indeed in the game. When a player attacks a native settlement and the local population "converts" during the attack, these are simply slaves that are treated by the game as the other "converts" within the game. Everything is simplified so that all natives taken into one of the political societies are treated as "converts". In reality, slaves. See also the description of Juan de Sepulveda within the game manual itself. It doesn't take rocket science to find the clues within the game materials themselves that show that, at least under some circumstances, "converts" are slaves.

So, slaves do exist in the game. Are African slaves in the game? No. Should they be? As a design limit I'm ok without them being there. Clearly the designers went with religious unrest as a major factor in driving colonization, thus indentured servants and criminals coming to the New World. Adding African slaves isn't necessary as a game mechanic any more than adding Chinese, Irish, Italian, or German immigrants serves any game mechanic purpose. Would adding African slaves or any other element make the game more historically accurate? Of course, but this is a game with limitations. It's intended to be fun and keep you glued to the keyboard. Juggling dozens of flavors of the same class of citizen doesn't add much to game play.

It's fair to argue that the designer's could have been more forthright with the state of the converts but the way these events are handled has two advantages. First, the inevitable complaints of someone's kids taking slaves by attacking a native village is not something they really wanted. Second, why have two classes of native citizens when you can have a simple "convert" regardless of how or why the unit "converted"?

Anyway, this is still one of my favorite games and I wanted to relay this information for those that are interested. I also wanted to say that I usually play the Dutch. I usually play at lower difficulties because I play for the empire building aspect and I don't want a huge challenge. I mention these facts because, even as the Dutch, I can usually send missionaries to my closest native neighbors and when they start to get mad at me, they usually knock on my door and demand food. I give it to them. They are happy. They spend the game giving me gifts. I get the founding fathers that make my missionaries all work as experts. I get Peter Minuit early to avoid paying for land. I get Pocahontas if things seem like they are getting out of hand. I never HAVE to fight the natives. Sometimes I do if I feel like it. Generally speaking, the biggest pain is the converts that just walk in the door because they like me. I don't like to get converts after I get Bartolome des Las Casas because he turns them all into free colonists and then I can train them. If you could train converts then I wouldn't care.

Interesting

Interesting article... guess this is part of why we will never see a sequel.

Found this Colonization site, it offers a lot of info about the game, and it has a forum too..

There are "founding fathers"

There are "founding fathers" (i.e. tech advances) which make the natives easier to live with: one allows you to use their land without paying, another makes them substantially less irritable. Missionaries produce regular converts (extra colony members) and keep a village placated; and then there's trade, of course. It's possible to win and win big by cooperating with the natives, but this is a challenge and require a lot of experience of the game.

It's more fun and intuitive to kill them, I admit. I still prefer Colonization to Civilization, because Civilization compels you to play a government, and to have a tax rate, and it glorifies recycling and other forms of centrally controlled idiocy. Even in Civ 4 the conception of a free market is one in which the government has a regulatory role to prevent monopoly, and it produces substantially better results compared to decentralization. (I am unhappy about this. I don't expect you to share my distaste, but my point is, you can't satisfy every ethical viewpoint with any publication, and it's only a game.)

Your essay does a good job of negating itself. It says that the absence of slaves is objectionable, but that the presence of slaves would be villainous. It notes (to paraphrase) that complaining about the alleged unethical messages contained in games is silly. (Incidentally, in the game Elite, it's possible to trade slaves and ship them around in cargo containers, which will occasionally be expelled into space and destroyed with lasers.) The thing to understand about games is that they create an imaginary environment complete with imaginary preconceptions. To enjoy playing Civ I have to pretend I am a statist for a while. It's fun to run a police state, or in Alpha C, to play The Hive. Indeed since the computer is incapable of simulating individuals with creative minds of their own, this kind of gameplay is the most natural. Such is the nature of the imperfect fit between a set of simple rules and reality.

Games are all about their arcane rules, and the facade of realism is there as a way to ease conceptualization of what would otherwise be abstract. It's not the other way around: the simplistic rules of games don't provide (much) information about the complex real world entities behind the arbitrary set of symbols used. The movement of chess pieces tells us nothing about the optimal structuring of a medieaval society. Nobody places confidence in these alleged ethical messages, or at least, anybody who does interpret the world through the medium of computer games is just as liable to interpret it through cartoons, or nursery rhymes, and has some severe moral failings to begin with (such as, perhaps, being very young).

...

Oh, and I didn't mention that you get points subtracted when you win (you have won a game, haven't you?) for each native village you destroy.

PS your captcha is unreadable except about one time in ten.

I must have played this game

I must have played this game a thousand times by now, but I could never put myself to actually attack the Indians. I'm a big fan of playing games without the use of violence if there are alternative ways. And that doesn't mean I don't get high scores, I reach the 'A Continent' rating without attacking Indians, and I've even got to fight other Europeans because they're burning settlements.

There are a number of strategies in cooperation with the Indians: buying silver from the Incas is an easy one, but there are more subtle ways. One of my favorites is gift horses and muskets to the Indians. Those items multiply tenfold in their hands, and then you can buy them cheaper from them. Besides, you give them a way to defend themselves better against aggressors.

That doesn't mean "no Indian was hurt in the making of this republic". There is the occasional brave attacking your colony because it has a lot of troops in it. But I don't mind killing them in self defense. Shit happens.

When you play a game like Colonization that many times, new ways of playing it arise. The game factors are few, but the strategies are exponentially bigger.