Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Andrea Piano | Sapienza Università di Roma | Italy 


September 16th 2022 | 12.00 – 13.30
Panel #8 | “Places
Room G.126 | Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milan, Largo Gemelli 1

Build your own dystopian nightmare: the case of Civilization VI

Sid Meier’s Civilization is among the most influential and popular franchises in videogame history. The latest installment in the series, Civlization VI (Firaxis Games, 2016), offers the player a complex revisited simulation of human history. It has been observed and studied from a great variety of perspectives (Alejski & Kowalska, 2021; Erdem & Pamuk, 2020; Mol et al., 2017). However, not many have pointed out its dystopic nature: the game forces the player to aim for a victory (of many forms: Religious, Scientific, Cultural, Political, etc.), which implies competition, either with Artificial Intelligence or other human players, and only one winner. Building your own civilization in the game, then, is not a mere tentative to forge an utopia of peace and prosperity, rather it tends to be a difficult, cruel, violent, and egoistic rush towards your personal goals. Such dynamics create a methodical, sometimes even hysterical, approach to growth and expansion. Efficiency and optimization (Athaillah et al., 2019) with regards to the game mechanics often suppress the need to feed your own people, to be respectful towards the environment or to non-violently coexist with other people. In order to prevail, the player must be relentless even in the most (supposedly) peaceful circumstances, constructing a true simulated dystopia. With a methodological approach of game studies and game design combined, I argue that Civilization VI uses procedural rhetoric (Bogost, 2010) as a critic to sociocultural growth of our civilization: it shows the player how the pursue of world domination could cause hunger, devastation, war, and environmental decadence. 

Andrea Piano is a PhD candidate at the University of Rome La Sapienza. His research project title is “Remediation and Refunctionalization of Natural Spaces in Videogames: Perspectives, Patterns, and Impact on Society”. The topics he is interested in are game studies, cultural heritage, sociology of culture, mythology and environment. Main publications are: The PAC-PAC Authoring Environment for Game Design Teaching: Two Learning Experiences Compared (with R. Argiolas, S. Cuccu, 2021); Mythopoiesis and Collective Imagination in Videogames (with A. Ceccherelli, E. Ilardi), in Proceedings of the ARQUEOLÓGICA 2.0 - 9th International Congress & 3rd GEORES, 2021.