Note: This is an excerpt from a draft of my thesis, A Computer Model of National Behavior. The introduction and table of contents
are also available
2.3 Computer Games
Advances in computer technology since the 1970s have allowed simulations for fun to be increasingly complex yet still popular. A thorough review of the electronic entertainment field is outside the scope of this thesis. However, a few games covering community control and empire building will be described.
Many computer games have modeled political history by allowing the player to control a state, and therefore implicitly assume that states are the only acting agents. Hammurabi is the earliest example of this. Ahl relates that, though originally written for the Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-800 and made to fit in 400 bytes of memory, the game modeled a city-state and let the player manage land and food. Empire was another such game to be written, by Walter Bright in 1977 for the VAX/VMS computer system. Empire modeled the entire flow of history, from a first small village to global domination. According to Wikipedia, Empire is still popular and modifications for it are still sold.
SimCity was another early computer game that took a different view of history. Unlike Empire, it was consciously designed to use simulation theory. Only half in jest, its creators described it as a â€œSystem Dynamic CA [Cellular Automata] Hybrid Discrete Stochastic Monte Carlo Thingâ€ in a book on the work by Dargahi and Bremer. Some of these concepts will be explored later in this thesis; for now, it is enough to say that SimCity assumed that cities were the drivers of history. The model mostly ignored larger affects, viewing growth and chance as being caused by the suitability of a local environment for different types of jobs.
A 1993 article in Computer Games Magazine by Tom Chick states that Sid Meier and a team under his direction wrote Civilization in 1990 to merge the models of Empire and SimCity, and a previous railroad management simulation. Combining SimCity’s complex economic trade engine with Empire’s world-scope, Civilization is considered to be one of the best strategy games ever. However, the statism of previous efforts remained.