Yesterday I fired up Civilization V. I had a few hours till my weekly D&D-session, so I was just going to start a proper new game and found the first city. After that I would have written some schoolwork, worked on the upcoming session, sculpted some miniatures and generally gotten some stuff done. Instead I tear myself away from the game three hours later, with only thirty minutes to the scheduled start. So it is one of those games.
I thought about the “one more turn”-mentality that Civ develops. It is annoyingly hard to quit playing, and I think I have pinpointed the reason: Civilization V does not have any natural stopping points.
Most games tend to pace their content somehow. The most usual way is to make a mission-based structure, with a new objective for the current area. This structure enables the program to load the active level only, decreasing waiting time. It also paces the action: Usually the beginning of a level is used for exposition and exploration, the middle introduces a new gameplay mechanic and the end puts the lessons learned to the test. After a level the player can naturally take a break or end the session, since the current situation is resolved. Despite being played in clear turns, running the civilization is a never-ending task. There are several layers of activities going on simultaneously, all of which begin and end at different times. While waiting for a research to complete, I tend to get involved in construction or exploration, and after new technology is withing my grasp, I feel the need to finish up another task before I can stop playing. It is an unstoppable cycle.
Why I felt the need to blog about this is that I actually dislike it. I am hesitant to get back into the game, since I know it will just eat up the rest of my evening.
Lately I have been more appreciative of quick games. The ones you can play, finish and move on. They provide new insight, they provide novel forms of entertainment and most importantly, I am just giving up one evening of intense gaming. Protoype was a good example. Civilizations, Space Rangers and such are fine ways to spend an evening, but I personally feel like I am taking nothing away from those sessions. Don’t get me wrong: I love gaming but due to my personal philosophy I feel the need to grow and create instead of just wallowing in empty indulgence.