My blog has been rather neglected of late, and there are two reasons. One is the new project I’ve been working on, regarding the serious issue of Vampire Hedgehogs (read my post about it, or go straight to the website). But the thing that has really taken up my time is playing Civilization V.
Civ (in all its versions) is quite simply the most addictive game I’ve played. In fact, given that I don’t smoke or take drugs, it may just be the most addictive thing I’ve experienced in my entire life. It eats up every evening and then eats several more hours when I really should be asleep.
The addictive element lies in the turn-based nature of the game. And this takes you by surprise because you’d think it would be slow, with natural breaks where you could stop playing, certainly compared to the high octane excitement of a shooty game. But a FPS has levels that you finish, and then happily go to bed. Civ is fiendishly constructed so that the end of every turn is like the end-of-series cliffhanger for your favourite TV show. You crave to find out how the other nations will react to your troop movements, whether your units will survive the counter-attack. You know that one more turn will see the completion of your latest war machine, which is sure to turn the tide of the war. And then once the computer has processed the other nations’ turns, its so tempting to do the first couple of tasks in your turn, get that new unit into action to see how much it kicks ass, and before you know it your mouse is hovering over the Next Turn button once again.
The shortness of the turns is another issue. Particularly at the start of the game, turns take a minute or two at most, and taking ‘just one more turn’ doesn’t seem like a big deal. It becomes a habit. But in the endgame, when you have ten-plus cities to monitor and fifty military units to coordinate, a turn can happily take half an hour – especially when there’s lots of fighting and, if you’re anything like me, you need to carefully work out the order that your units act in. No wonder those two hours from midnight to 2am seem to disappear so easily.
I realised the other night that during periods of ‘peacetime’, the game really isn’t that exciting, but the addiction keeps me clicking, biding my time and building my strength for the next big war.
Now I’m reaching the end of my grand campaign, and have finally constructed a Giant Death Robot. This is the most powerful fighting unit in the game and the only fictional one (it’s one of the few new elements in Civilization V, which is mostly simpler than Civ 4). It is rampaging across enemy territory just as I’d envisaged.
Only three more turns till I finish making another one.