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Is the Civ Series telling a wrong (hi)story?

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by historix69, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. historix69

    historix69 Chieftain

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    Civ Games are based on cities. The player settles his first city around 4.000 BC. The population in the city produces food, grows, builds workers, military units (armies) and more settlers and founds or conquers more cities and so builds an empire, (potentially banishing the barbaric tribes who lived in the region before).

    I once read that until 18th or 19th century, the death rate in most cities exceeded the birth rate (due to disease, poor health conditions, plagues, violance, etc.), so population growth in most cities was negative for most of the time. Cities had to rely on voluntary and forced (slavery) immigration to not loose population or to grow. Until 19th century more than 75% of mankind did not live in cities.
    In medieval age, cities often were not more than a fortified place for a small population of a (worldly and religious) wealthy elite, their slaves/servants and some merchants and craftsmen. Food was not produced in the city but was collected as tax or traded with nearby villages or regions far away.

    So while ancient cities are the source of our civilization (e.g. writing, science, philosophy, modern state, ...), in history cities and early states could hardly exist on their own in an empty world and were rather fragile, in contradiction to the strong self-supplying cities in civ games.


    Today I came across an interesting article about a rather new book :

    "Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States" by James C. Scott

    https://www.amazon.com/Against-Grain-History-Earliest-States/dp/0300182910/
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/nov/25/against-the-grain-by-james-c-scott-review

     
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  2. rattatatouille

    rattatatouille Chieftain

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    Repeat after me: it's a game, not a history simulator.
     
  3. historix69

    historix69 Chieftain

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    I started the thread for those people who are interested in history. If you are not interested in history, please ignore the thread.
    You answered so quickly (1 min) that you hardly could read the linked article and judge the provided informations.
    Also the title question if the Civ Series is telling a wrong (or outdated or oversimplified) (hi)story is independant from Civ being a game or a history simulator. Some teachers are using Civ in school to interest their pupils in history.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  4. Duuk

    Duuk Doom-Sayer Supporter

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    The Civ series has always done a poor job of abstracting this because it uses city names when each "city" is actually a region. Look at the size it takes up on the map. You're not building a single city, but essentially a whole province.
     
  5. Karpius

    Karpius Chieftain

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    There are far too many factors involved in the transition from hunter-gatherers to settled farming than our 'game' could ever possibly address. To answer your base question - yes, Civilization 6 has it wrong. In so very many ways! But it also has some right as far as the further development of empires and why they clashed.

    The development of the city, however, is hugely important to human history and while I have not read Mr. Scott's suppositions yet, on the surface they seem to fly in the face of all other archeological evidence I've read about previously. For further reading, I would highly recommend historian Ian Morris and his books "Why the West Rules....for now" and "War...what is it good for?". They are both very broad sweeps of history studded with the sort of details necessary to allow the bigger picture to be seen. In both books, he describes how and why humanity has consistently grown and prospered through history. One measure he points to is the drastic decrease in violent deaths from the stone age to today which he directly attributes to the rise of the city-state-empire and the "stationary bandits" that both rule them and protect them. He comments often and freely that much of history is quite the paradox.
     
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  6. Trav'ling Canuck

    Trav'ling Canuck Warlord

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    I view the "city" in Civ as being both the actual city and the outlying population surrounding the city. Hence all those farms, mines, etc. It's only as buildings get built and people take on the role of "specialists" in the game that they become true urban dwellers. Prior to that, most of the population growth takes place in the countryside, with the central town/city as simply the administrative hub and where people gather at market times and festivals.

    That was easier to conceptualize in prior versions of Civ. The addition of districts in Civ 6 improves game play (in my opinion), but stretches the concept of how big the actual city is beyond the central hex. When Civ 6 was first announced, a number of people struggled with this, then rationalized it as the districts being their own, specialized towns/cities on the outskirts of main city.

    Another aspect of Civ 6 that impacts this concept is that the productivity of the countryside continually improves during the game, but the productivity of specialists don't. In all prior versions of Civ, as the "city" grew in population, you got a larger and larger number of specialists working in the city-proper, drawn from population growth from the countryside. You don't really get that feel in Civ 6, because buildings produce yields without requiring anyone to work them, specialists work in districts instead of the central hex, and you rarely have a motivation to create specialists anyway as country dwellers are usually more productive.

    So in other words, I can view Civ play as being about building up a productive countryside of people who can support a small number of urban dwellers who are your artists, entertainers, merchants and philosophers (and later scientists), and then over time technological advances allow you to support more and more of those urban dwellers. It's just a bit more abstract in Civ 6 than in past incarnations.
     
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  7. DJ_Tanner

    DJ_Tanner Chieftain

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    That book isn't about cities its about the advent of agriculture, hence the name "Against the Grain". Its a, relatively new although pretty old at this point, theory about agriculture. Since it was always seen as a positive thing since it allowed humans to stop and settle, however, the idea itself is crazy (for a hunter-gather) so how it came about/why it stuck is unknown. Additionally, with farming it creates the issue of some land being more valuable than other land (not an issue if you are always on the move) which leads to creation of cities (issues with those) and territory disputes (war).

    A few issues with how that fits in with civ. As mentioned, civ is a game with a history theme, not a representation of actual history. Moreover, that is just a theory, and while it has gained a lot of steam that agriculture changed human history, maybe not for the best, it is unknown if those issues would have cropped up anyways under a HG philosophy.
     
  8. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Chieftain

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    I used to care a lot about stuff like this, because I wanted Civ to be a history simulator. Then I played Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings, and now I realize there's no way it could even come close to being a history simulator, and in fact I wouldn't want it to be. Now I'm content with the board-gamey nature of it. Just play EU4 and CK2 if you want a more historically accurate game.
     
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  9. Siptah

    Siptah Eternal Chieftain

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    Or the Clarus Victoria games like Pre-Dynastic Egypt. Those care a lot about historical accuracy. In fact, they do it so much that it limits your choices drastically and replayability is low (maybe 3 or 4 games). EU feels like a sandbox compared to that. I think board-gamey nature captures civ very well - or historically inspired fantasy. So I don‘t care that much for details like that in civ: game mechanics are much more important here than any historical accuracy.

    And as a historical note: it’s a complicated issue with agriculture.
     
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  10. historix69

    historix69 Chieftain

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    Have you read the book?
    (I have not, so far. But : some part of the book is available on amazon in the preview, some pages are missing.)

    The title is : "Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States".
    So I suppose it deals with early cities and (city) states evolving around a (forced?) society producing grain, taxing grain harvest and using grain for trade and to pay wages. (Using grain as an easy to control and store currency.)
     
  11. Krajzen

    Krajzen Warlord

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    The core idea behind the Civ game is that it divorces human cultures and notable leaders from their time and space, and constraints of crude reality, to see

    "what if Aztecs weren't completely doomed to fail because of geography and inevitable 90% epidemics fatality rate, and their culture (their memes?) developed in a conditions like China"
    "What if Rome could fight with Mongols"

    It's not only not a simulation, it is denial and subversion of the concept of historical simulation, for sake of providing us with abstracted, fair arena for certain memes from history of mankind (Rome, China, Islam etc) to clash with each other like sport teams.

    Immortal 6000 year old Theodore Washington, the holy prophet of taoism, looks at those demographics...





    Oh and by the way, the concept of my cities spontaneously losing population all the time due to plague and famine, with me incapable of doing anything to prevent it, is not fun.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
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  12. historix69

    historix69 Chieftain

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    As I understand it, it was common for most of the time to raid the neighbours and take food and population (slaves) from them. (Slavery was part of Civ CtP and Civ 3.) So it isn't so that the player could do nothing.

    But to create a civilization which stands the test of time (while fighting plagues, social unrest and external enemies) might be more difficult than it is now in Civ games. Is there a real example for a civ which stands the test of time from 4000 BC to now?
     
  13. Depravo

    Depravo Siring Bastards

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    Paradox games are little better than Civ at simulating history. (IMO, as they ladle more and more embellishments on top of a rather thin base, they begin to fail as games too.)
     
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  14. Eric Guimarães

    Eric Guimarães Chieftain

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    I think the time everything happens in civ is fairly accurate(depending on the era , each turn counts as 25 years)...
    Civ 6 is the closest to reality in my opinion, since it includes housing,loyalty and stuff...But it's an unfinished game so far and the next expansion might include famine,immigration or even plague...who knows...
     
  15. Trav'ling Canuck

    Trav'ling Canuck Warlord

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    "Civilization" is such an inexact term, people could interpret it many ways. The original board game Civilization described the various factions as "cultures", a recognition that ruling regimes and individual cities come and go, but culture's not much better than civilization in terms of precision.

    I'd argue the smallest unit that could be argued to be a distinct civilization for the past 6,000 years is the whole of humankind. Any subdivision of that you'd be hard pressed to show either that they exhibit a unique, unchanging aspect over the millennia or that they failed to adopt at least some aspects of their way of life from their neighbours.

    Which is part of the reason I find the arguments about who's "worthy" of being included as a civilization amusing. We're all part of one big human story, and a snap shot focusing on any one part of that story is as good as any other for illustrating the story.
     
  16. LMT

    LMT Chieftain

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    As others have said, it's a game. If I want to truly learn about history, I'll read a book...like the one mentioned in the OP (I just reserved a copy from the library, it sounds interesting).

    No doubt, there are some major historical concepts that are completely absent from the game. Some of which--such as slavery, genocide, rape during war, and terrorism--have changed the course of history. But I have no problem at all with things like that being omitted.
     
  17. historix69

    historix69 Chieftain

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    It is interesting that military units, war and capturing or razing cities (= genocide or ethnical cleansing) are part of Civ, but (historical) slavery is usually not.
    Military units, war and capturing cities is a main feature of Civ, as important as the tech tree.
     
  18. Civrinn

    Civrinn Chieftain

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    Slavery has been in previous Civ games. I want to say Civ 2? You used to not be able to buy things outright with gold. You had to sacrifice population in order to build things quicker (representing abusing slave labor). EDIT: It might not be 2 now that I think about it, it might be a later version. I could google but I always consider online forums a means of simple discussion with people. So forgive me if im incorrect.
     
  19. DJ_Tanner

    DJ_Tanner Chieftain

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    I have not read that book, but I am familiar with with the underlying anthropological concept (how much Dr. Scott dives into the pol sci ramifications, which are his bread and butter I don't know). However, I would guess he uses this to base his argument that agriculture allowed people to be controlled, which fixed structures do. Its very similar to arguments that use religion in place of a formal political machine, but results are the same. Those ramifications aside they wouldn't really deal with the general growth of the city as you were addressing.

    To that point, the civ series does address those issues in the population and amenity systems (previously happiness system). Growth can be hindered if you do not correctly plan for it, and items that support population growth provide more housing from granaries that store more food to sewers that reduce disease. Grow too large too quickly and the population grow restless and revolt. Now clearly the game can't be as harsh as the real world where civilizations were tumbled by unprepared population growth or proper allocation of resources, but it is a game so (overly) punishing people for doing well doesn't fit mechanically. As for forced work, be it outright slavery or economic pressure, remember you are an immortal despot who has full control over every aspect of your empire, including the "manage civilian" button. Take that to represent what you will, but it sure as hell ain't free will.
     
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  20. historix69

    historix69 Chieftain

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    I liked part of the Civ4 system with disease (green points) which reduced population growth until countered by more healthy terrain, better infrastructure or a wider range of different kinds of food via trade.

    That is one of the reasons why all governments in Civ are actually despotism (by the player) with different boni.

    I meant slavery more in terms of moving population from one (maybe foreign) city to another (own) city for work and population growth or even trading slaves (population / workforce). Civ 3 was very close to this.

    This was a feature of Civ4. I don't remember if it was also present in Civ3.

    One of them, Civ3 or CivCtP, had a slave trader unit which could steal population from foreign cities and allowed you to use them as workers or add them as population to your cities (until a certain size.)

    Capturing a settler or razing a city in Civ3 provided a (stack of) foreign worker units (depending on size of the city) and allowed to use them as workers or add them as population to your cities. Adding too much foreign population to a city could cause loyalty conflicts when at war with the original foreign nation.
    Civ3 also allowed to draft population, that is transforming population into (weak) military units in case of an emergency.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
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