How Civ VI’s Expansions Expands the Ideas of Civilization

I’ve been playing a lot of Civilization VI recently. Civ VI just recently announced its second large expansion for the game. Since Civ IV, each entry in the series has had two major expansions. So, what did Civ VI’s two expansions bring to this entry in the series? The first expansion is known as Rise and Fall and added two major game systems to play with. City Loyalty, which means that cities who become unhappy will rebel and become free cities. After that, they can be reconquered or succumb to foreign influence. The second mechanic is ages. Depending on your achievements within a historical era will determine positive or negative effects on your nation’s growth. So Rise and Fall is all about the internal struggles of a civilisation, obliquely about those who live under the rule of an empire. The second big update, known as Gathering Storm  Gathering Storm makes the world more alive with natural disasters affecting your civilization. So, first I want to look at what that could mean for the series and then look at who has been invited for the latest entry in the series.

So, one of the interesting things to come out of the information surrounding the release of Gathering Storm beyond changes to fundamental parts of the gameplay is that natural disasters will be exasperated by climate change. This was an interesting addition to me since in every game I tend to use the environment like it’s always the Industrial Revolution. This new system might have me thinking twice about how I interact with the world. The thing I also find interesting in that regard is that any additions to the Civilization formula always reflect on how Civilization is defined by those who create the series. Being one of the first expansions to focus on the planet that Civilization takes place on acts as a commentary on how the concept of civilisation relates to the world around it.

One more aspect I’m interested in when it comes to the new expansion is that there is a near-future era being added to the game. Beyond the mechanical aspects of adding new science and civics to research, this includes some light speculation about the future from Firaxis which I am very interested in. The most current governmental methods in Civ VI are the three hot crazes of the 20th century: fascism, communism, and capitalism. I’m interested in the governmental methods that will be added in this system after those three ideologies. At this stage, I have no idea what they are because of the trickle of information being released.

So I’ve mentioned before that the expansion of who gets to be in Civ is in some ways important because it denotes who we think of as civilisations. The term civilisation is a bit fraught because who gets to be a civilisation is often decided by the powerful and can be used as a tool to delegitimise groups who live differently than the dominant power structures. For example, one might think of English settlers colonising America and how their opinions of the people already living in America would be, you know, not great and play on ideas of civilisation versus ‘nature’.

For me, I find it always interesting to view which African civilizations get into the game. There are a couple reasons for this. First is how Africa was carved up by European powers in the late 19th century and early 20th century. These sort of things reverberate even to today. The second is how we in the West use Africa as a shorthand for destituteness e.g. ‘There are children starving in Africa’. The reason it got that way has a lot to do with the first reason. Certainly, if you had no eye towards history or were only taught a very white, very European history you might assume that this is just the way things are with no deeper meaning ascribed. It’s also interesting that Africa was home to the richest empire in all history, the Mali Empire. In the first Civilization, there were two civilisations from the African continent: Egypt and the Zulu. In the latest game, including all base leaders, leader packs, expansion leaders, revealed but not released leaders, there are four African civilisations out of a total thirty-eight released Civs.

Those four are Egypt, Nubia, the Kongo, and the Zulu. I was actually expecting more than that. There may be more revealed in the coming weeks but this is the state of things while I am writing. It’s not all European Civs however. There is a collection of Civs from Oceania and Asia notably. My country, Australia, and two of its closest geographical neighbours in the Maori and Indonesia have made their way into the game. Notably, there are rumours of Mali and Phoenicia being added in the new expansion but those remain rumours. The widest pool of African leaders came from the series’ last entry which featured six African civilisations: Carthage, Ethiopia, Egypt, Morroco, the Songhai, and the Zulu. Civ VI will likely meet that number with a similar number of total civilisations after the release of this expansion.

The reason I wanted to mention all of this is because I believe that Civilization has potential as a way to introduce people to new empires they might not have encountered in their everyday life. Expanding who gets to join Civ is also a way for people of the world to see themselves represented. Could we look at under-representation and condemn the series? Sure. However, I think that the recent games in the series and their power to widen the lens is a step in the right direction for what the series is. By nature of being a 4X game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate), it’s always going to have a little colonial blood in it. How do we extract that without changing the fun alternate history game that the series presents? I honestly don’t know. Anyway, I think I have a war to get back to between Trajan of Rome (me) and Lautaro of the Mapuche, which is looking like a stalemate with only one of his cities under my control.

 

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