Although he comes from that wild time in gaming that gave us Trip Hawkins and the concept of “rock star developers,” Sid Meier is not loud and brash. Nor is he looking to make anyone his bitch. These days he’s more like your friendly gaming grandpa—as we spoke, he placed his words carefully and deliberately, as if he were positioning game pieces on a hex grid. He became animated as we discussed game mechanics but otherwise answered questions almost laconically, with a slight smile—after all, he’s been dealing with the press for decades.
Meier spent a few hours walking us through the birth of Civilization, one of the most famous and lauded franchises in the history of gaming. It’s among those rarest of titles that effectively mainstreamed an entire genre—in this case, the “4X game” (which stands for “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”). Although Civilization wasn’t the first strategy game on the market, it was the proverbial 800-pound gorilla—and it did for turn-based strategy games what Doom would do for the FPS genre a few years later.
But as so often happens with genre-defining games, Civilization started out as a very different experience.