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Decade-long Civilization II match offers grim view of the future

Reddit user “Lycerius” has been playing the same Civilization II match since 2002. Normally this would just be a bizarre story of one man’s dedication to his favorite classic game — something to be smirked at before moving on — but in this case it’s a harrowing look at one possible reality as envisioned by the gold standard of turn-based strategy gaming.

Describing the world of 3991 as “a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation,” Lycerius explains that only three nations remain, locked in an eternal war that so far has raged for over 1700 years. The planet’s surface is largely irradiated swamp land due to the proliferation of nuclear weapons between the three factions, and global warming which has melted the polar ice caps. While the threat of mutual annihilation keeps nuclear weaponry in check in our time (and in most Civilization matches), Lycerius claims that with each of the world’s powers regularly detonating nukes anyway, no one side has any reason to stop nuking the others, and thus nuclear war has continued unabated for centuries. However, since every major city is equipped with missile defense systems, these nukes are only really effective against mobile armies, leaving the areas outside of cities virtually uninhabitable and preventing any one side from gaining an advantage over the other via traditional military means.

More depressingly, Lycerius claims that he was forced to convert his nation into a mandatory Communist state simply to keep the war effort going. The other two nations are likewise locked into a state of stagnation, using all of their resources to maintain the three-way stalemate, lest any of the other powers attain an upper hand.

In truth, this is far from crucial, world-changing news, but between his Reddit post, the images Lycerius has captured, and this subreddit forum created by Reddit users in an effort to crowdsource ideas to end the centuries-old war, the entire tale is a beautiful example of how a game can create engaging scenarios far beyond what its developers ever intended. Plus, it’s a really dark look at mankind’s possible future that simultaneously serves as a reminder of the kind of tension we faced only theoretically during the Cold War. It’s fascinating reading, if you’ve got time to kill.