Monday, April 11, 2011

History of QR9: Chapter I - Civilization

I've loved gaming ever since I was a kid. In my youth, I was stuck with a Mac and parents who (rightly) limited the amount of time got to spend playing indoors. To me, there was always this great specter of a great variety of cool games, just out of reach. I was perfectly content with Warcraft II and so didn't do much research about this wider world, but every once and a while I would catch a glimpse of something really cool I was missing.

I remember one day finding the game manual for Sid Meier's Civilization I (do you remember when games used to have physical manuals full of neat stuff? How old am I?). I read through pages of flowery prose about "can your civilization stand the test of time?" and mysterious technologies from 'hunting' to 'nuclear power'. All of human history in a game? Best thing ever. I was blown away, utterly fascinated.

When my love of games couldn't be satisfied by the few titles available for old Macs (which was often), I would make up for it by inventing my own games. Of course, at 12 or 13 I didn't know how to program, or even that it was possible, so I was restricted to paper and pencils. The first coherent thing I ever designed was an attempt at recreating the epic Civilization that I'd read about. My game was called, of course, "Civilization" and though it took place in Neolithic Mesopotamia, it was not that similar to its namesake.

The "player" (myself and my younger brother whom I continue to subject to all of my creations) managed the denizens of a single city, directing them to farm, gather resources, and slowly expand. We had to crunch the numbers for each turn which involved about 20 minutes of rote math and record keeping. To make matters worse, I was obsessed with being faithful to the day-to-day struggle of early man, and so made the game extremely difficult. We were constantly one step behind disease, starvation, and overpopulation. Whenever things started looking up for our ill-fated citizens, I would change the mechanics to make it harder.

But man, I loved that game. Reading about Civilization made me yearn for a historical game, so I made one. I reveled in the creative license: if I wanted the game to be different, if I wanted a new feature, boom there it was. It was intoxicating. I'd say that my little Civilization wannabe marked the beginning of my game-creating career. It was the first coherent thing I made that held my interest for more than a week and, with all the ind-numbing record keeping, the first time I started to consider how cool it would be to make computer games.

I like to think I've come a long way in the past 10 or so years. For one, I've learned to program which has been a big help. But I think that my youthful passion, my love of creating things, and my commitment to bringing a vision into being have all stuck with me.


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