Publisher: 2K Games and Aspyr
Year Made: 2010
Platforms: PC, OS X, Linux
Price: $29.99 or $49.99 with all DLC
Content Areas: Social Studies
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: 4-over 12 hours
Number of Players: Single Player or Multiplayer
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Games like Sid Meier’s Civilization V from Firaxis Games, 2K Games, and Aspyr that give me the chills at the possibilities of game based learning. Civilization V pulls players into dozens of civilizations led by their greatest rulers and gives one task: be the greatest civilization in the world. Players can accomplish that task in several ways: a domination victory, scientific victory, cultural victory, and diplomatic victory. From the ancient Babylonians to America itself, players can don the mantle of a number of civilizations and build, battle, and barter their way to being the greatest civilization.
The largest challenges with Civilization V in a classroom come in its cost and length of play. The base game is $29.99 and with all of the DLC - which is absolutely worth the price for all the civilizations you can get - is $49.99. In a school setting to get a class set could be a bit expensive, but you could look for grants or start with the base version and get the DLC bit by bit later or have half the class play one day while the other half works on their projects or other work. The second challenge is the length of play. Understandably, it takes a while to play a civilization from 4000 BC all the way to 2050 AD. There are ways to make it a shorter play though, including setting the length lower to a quick play (which is also great for students who don’t like waiting) and achieving one of the victories before 2050. I had playthroughs that lasted three hours (two civilizations, standard length, and I wiped out the other civilization as soon as I could) and playthroughs lasting closer to twelve hours (six civilizations, standard length, and I took my time getting to the scientific victory). Some students will finish earlier than others, so be ready for students to work on their next step or let them play another round while they wait!
I’m not even sure where to start with how to use Civilization V in education, because there are so many opportunities for its use in class. Civilization V is one of those clear cut examples of why games belong in education and what they can do. Civilization V fits snugly into a social studies class and could be used for a variety of purposes. First, with the massive amount of facts and research that went into the game, students can learn a vast amount just in playing the game. If a player wants to learn more about a fact or ruler, they only have to look them up in-game to learn more. Oftentimes though, players can find something that they want to research beyond the game itself. For example, while playing as Korea, I was curious about the ruler, Sejong the Great, and the legacy the game claimed he had. I wanted to know more about the scientific advances he is credited with, so I researched him. To my delight, I found that the depiction of Sejong in the game aligned with a painting of the actual ruler, and I soon had my game on pause as I learned more about the great Korean ruler I had never heard of before. Other players I have spoken with about the game always have a specific experience they enjoy recounting and each situation is so unique that players and students could have endless discussions about their experiences.
Civilization V could work for a small lesson in scenario mode, where players are given specific win conditions that don’t require the entire playthrough. Scenarios that players could explore include a Viking struggle for power, reliving the Civil War (from either side), the fall of Rome, the rush to claim the New World, and more. If you’re studying one of these events, this game provides an opportunity for students to engage with the material and understand some of the difficulties and complexities that those civilizations would have faced in those conflicts.
Civilization V is not just limited to the small scenarios though. The game could also be used as a central text in a unit. Given the number of rulers, students could choose a ruler (or get one at random) to play through their scenario. Once they have their ruler, they can read primary and secondary documents about that ruler, find depictions of him or her, explore their legacies, and play out their scene and make decisions as they think their ruler would. Will they dominate through technology like Sejong the Great? Exercise military might like Shaka of the Zulu nation? Enact policies to grant rights to all citizens? For a final assessment, students could even construct a Model UN of all of their nations or write their nation’s history and discuss how it compares with the nation’s actual history.
Look no further than Civilization V for a game that allows students to make meaningful connections, engage with the past, create their own versions, and gives them plenty to talk to each other and you about. What more could you want for your students?
Educational Rating: 8/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 8/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)