Civilization is one of the best computer games out there. It blends real history with simulated fantasy. I think it was LGR who put it best:
“Civilization gives you the ability to play with ‘What if?’ scenario’s (…) few games give this opportunity (…) it doesn’t feel random, it just feels natural somehow”
But, playing a game of Civ VI is only about one thing: it’s a contest of progress. The (human) player starts lagging behind the other computer-controlled civilizations and through strategy tries to outsmart them in the long run to gain a military, cultural or scientific victory. But in the 21st century it doesn’t seem logical to only want to outgrow other nations. Environmental and sustainability goals now influence a lot of decision and policy making around the globe.
What if, entering the modern era of your Civ-game awareness grows of the negative environmental effects of industrial growth? And what if playing into that could actually lead to a new ‘Sustainability Victory’?
What would that look like?
Well, let’s start with city planning; a huge part of Civ VI’s gameplay. Around the end of the 19th century countries adopted zoning and environmental laws to reduce hazards and pollution from factories. In the game this can be caused by researching Chemistry or Urbanization translating into harbours and industrial districts having a negative effect on agricultural production, happiness (City Centers) and appeal (Neighborhoods). This plays into the game’s mechanics causing players to think even harder about placement of these functions in advance or suffering consequences.
Environmental problems ignore borders – so you can also negatively affect your neighbors!
Secondly, the biggest change started in 1972 with the publication of ‘Limits to Growth’. Written by the Club of Rome, this report states that continuation of the industrial effort around the world will damage the environment, stop economic growth and eventually decline the human population. In Civ researching this Civic (or gaining the Report through a Great Scientist) will cause awareness of the unsustainable use of natural and luxury resources. Players going for a Sustainability Victory could start by reducing their own use of Oil and Uranium and building Wind Farms on Ocean tiles and Solar Fields on Desert tiles to keep production level with other Civs.
Thirdly, the Sustainable Civilization will strife to reduce resource use and natural deprivation in other countries. This could happen through a (Civ V like) World Forum where the use of resources can be limited through agreements. It could also be a more aggressive, Religious Warfare/Archeologist kind of method, were the Conservationist can declare places (also out of your own territory) out-of-bounds for mining Iron or pumping Oil, perhaps when there are nearby tiles with Coral Reefs or Jungle.
Why is it interesting?
Environmental action conflicts with a lot of the other victory types. Cultural civilizations will care mostly about growing Trade Routes and Airport traffic. Civilizations heading for the scientific victory will burn rocket fuel to reach Mars. And militarized civilizations will be gathering and burning all the Oil, Uranium and Aluminium they can get their hands on. An environmental society will try to influence them to curb their exploits.
How would you win?
Winning as a Sustainable Civilization would have some relation with a (Civ V) diplomatic victory. As we see today it would take Leadership to change behaviour in other nations. It’s about getting nations to sign a series of D’Accords with you, every time curbing all damaging industrial, scientific and cultural progress in all signing nations – if a civ signs of course.
You can gain Leadership by showing your own inclination to change to a Green Economy, firstly by building up your Green Energy supply. But also by refraining from building Airfields, far reaching Trade Routes and maintaining only a small standing military – which consumes Oil. Enacting Green Policies can keep your civilization competitive. Leadership credit will make you able to lobby with other powers, for example asking them: “If I give up my Aluminium mines, will you give up your fleet of Destroyers?”. Or “I got Russia to give up their Rocket Program as long as you stop building Airports”. Up the diplomatic pressure and get all nations to sign the D’Accords.
But what if there’s one militaristic nation that won’t reduce its oil-fueled army and nuclear industrial complex?
Eventually, players will have to ask a question to them that maybe even Green Party politicians never have had to ask themselves: Would you go to war with a country that does not care for environmental preservation?
Open letters are projects were I share a ‘Free Idea’ with anyone or any organisation. The writing of the letter should take a maximum of 3 hours. This amount of time will mean the result is not perfect.