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12 Games That Defined Their Genres

The Escapist Staff | 8 Dec 2010 21:00
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Civilization

Genre: Grand Strategy
First Released: 1991
Platform: MS-Dos
Developer: Sid Meier

Games are about struggles, conflict and resolution. In addition to entertainment, they are mental exercise, preparing us for dealing with the complexities of life. It should be no surprise then to learn that the earliest games were wargames, simulating the experience of armed conflict in a controlled environment, allowing participants to learn form their mistakes and hopefully not repeat them when it really mattered.

Wargames existed in many forms for centuries before the invention of the computer. Even as late as the 20th century, the best and most complex wargames were still being played on a table, with metal figurines, dice and massive rulebooks. The invention of the home persona computer raised the question of what would happen if a player couldn't see his opponent, couldn't observe the other side of the board and had no idea what the enemy was thinking ...

Games like Empire began to answer this question by putting the control of massive armies of men and machines into the hands of players and obscuring the world around them with a "fog of war" that only lifted when explored. But these early strategy games, while massively complex and engaging, were two-dimensional affairs. One fought because, well, that's what one did when one had a virtual army. What else would you do?

Civilization roundly answered that question and many more besides. In "Civ" and its many sequels and expansions, players not only wage war when necessary, but peace when they desire. They not only control armies, but create them. They not only destroy - they build. You can play Civilization by amassing a powerful force of combat machinery and decimating your opponents, or you can kill them with kindness by leveraging the culture of your civilization against them. Or you can become the most technologically advanced civilization in the game and blast off to Alpha Centauri, leaving the world and its problems behind. Even though Civilization is an abstraction of the whole of human history, it forms the basis for all grand strategy games that focus on specific eras of history like Europa Universalis and Rome: Total War.

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