Monday, August 25, 2008

Blast from the Past

My junior and senior year in college, I lived in a small two bedroom one bath apartment in PB (Pacific Beach). I had a computer in my bedroom, but I shared it with my roommate, Ryan.

While Ryan was on his summer midshipman cruise on a gator freighter (a.k.a. amphibious assault ship), someone introduced him to this game called Civilization. He ended up bringing the game home and installing it on my computer.

Many a night thereafter, I would awake in the wee hours of the morning and say to my groggy self, "Self, where is that bright light coming from???" I would lift my head up from my pillow and peer through my squinting eyes to see Ryan's butt firmly planted in my computer chair and his fingers on the keyboard. His face would be in a zombie-like trance, illuminated by the glow from the computer monitor as he played Civilization for hours on end.

"Dude. You. Need. Help. Go to bed."

I don't remember how long I resisted trying the game, but at some point, it sucked me in, too. I would waste HOURS upon HOURS playing Civilization. (You can imagine the STELLAR social life I enjoyed then, too).

There came a time though, when I had finally learned to beat the game and I got bored of it. Done. Fini.

Then the sinister powers-that-be declared, "Let there be Civ II." ...and it was good. And it did wasteth many more hours of my life.

I did learn an element of self control while playing Civ II though. I realized that hours would pass without my even noticing, and then I would be pissed off at myself for wasting the entire Saturday playing a useless video game. So I learned to set a timer. When the alarm would go off after an hour of playing, I would stop wherever I was and say, "That's enough, it's time to do something productive with my day."

No, really.

I hear you snickering. Seriously though, I really did set an alarm to limit my video game time, and I really did stop and save the game and move on with my life.

Believe it or not, LW also liked to play Civ II. After I installed our first home LAN, we used to play multi-player games of Civ II together back in Monterey.

Then we started having kids.

Civ II went by the wayside. Sleep was more important.

So what brought all this up, you ask?

It's amazing the things you find when you're moving. I happened upon the Civ II CD. It was calling my name like a siren's song. I couldn't resist. I had to play a game for old time's sake.

It sucked me in.

I didn't even hesitate to play the game in front of the boys. I thought it would be over their heads. There's no shooting or real action. You move pieces around on a map. You have to pay attention to food production and tax rates.

ES saw me playing and immediately there was a gleam in his eye.

"What's that?"


That was it.

No further explanation required.

It's as if that single word was explanation in and of itself of something magnificent.

The next thing I knew, I could hear the soft whispering noise of wood legs on carpet as ES dragged one of the dining room chairs over and sat down next to me. He just watched me play for a little bit. Then he started asking questions.

Now, we're in the midst of playing our first multi-player game together. I figured it wouldn't hurt to let him try it out. I reassured myself, "Self, he's QUICKLY going to see how incredibly boring the game is and he's going to give up and move on to something else."

That hasn't happened yet.

He keeps asking to continue playing our game, and we've been playing a bit every day for the past several days.

I'm not a terrible parent, am I?

Looking on the bright side:

a) It's time we're spending together.
b) It's not just mindless time, it's interactive.
c) He puts on his very best behavior routine, butters us up, and is super cooperative in doing things like taking his bath if he thinks we'll let him play Civ II.
d) He's been reading a lot. I have it set on the lowest difficulty setting with the tutorials turned on, so it keeps popping up windows explaining the rules of the game and how things work, and he's reading them all.
e) He's learning about different forms of government, taxes, and how to balance limited resources between defense, education, and building city improvements, etc.

I might need to start setting a timer for myself again.
*Footnote: Yes, I know they eventually came out with a few more sequels. LW actually really liked Civ III, but they changed too much of the game and I didn't care for it. Neither of us have tried Civ IV yet.


Loping Squid said...

holy cow.
I wasted so many hours with that game it's not funny. Glad I haven't 'stumbled upon it.'

Oz said...

Just one more turn...

There are also two expansion packs to Civ IV. Lots of fun.