Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Scholarly Civilization: Utilizing 4X Gaming as a Framework for Humanities Digital Media


While much attention has been given to first-person shooters and puzzle games in academic scholarship, large-scale Civilization style games (known colloquially as 4X games) have received comparatively scant attention. The map-based nature of these games, with an emphasis on socio-political, socio-environmental, cultural and military activity, is particularly well-suited as a medium to express historical knowledge. However, to adapt a medium designed to entertain players to a scholarly medium for the analysis of historical processes requires a thorough understanding of the structure of 4X games and the manner in which historical processes are represented in a map-based space. This paper analyzes the spatial and processual systems in FreeCiv and the Civilization series of games —specifically, an examination of the use of container-oriented, tile-based maps contrasted with modern historical GIS based on point and polygon data reveals best practices from the entertainment gaming community that may prove highly suitable for adoption in the digital humanities. The creation of tiled maps using defined environmental and social terrain and unit types may also provide accessibility to non-coding scholars to academic commons-based peer collaborative creation of new humanities digital media. The defined interaction between game objects, such as cities, irrigated farmland and military units, provides a second entry point for scholars, who through critique of existing game dynamics can define a more historically accurate system subject to peer-review. As a digital humanities medium, such a system would also prove suitable for the integration of multi-paradigm modeling techniques.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View