A Civilization obsession that has lasted half a lifetime

A Civilization obsession that has lasted half a lifetime

To kick off our weekend thread this Friday, I chatted up Thomas Bloomquist, an Onion staffer who I mentioned in an earlier WAYPTW? post as a diehard fan of Civilization, the long-lived and highly revered game of global conquest and diplomacy. Thomas is a senior account manager here in Chicago, which means that he is essentially the Ken Cosgrove of Onion, Inc. Here is Thomas next to his computer, which features a picture of the Earth, presumably to inspire his off-duty world domination.

As always, share your weekend video game plans in the comments. Also, if you have experience putting together a homebrew arcade cabinet, we’re all ears—maybe once we get around to building our own, I’ll make an article out of it.

John Teti: What are you playing this weekend?

Thomas Bloomquist: I will be playing Civilization V, with the expansion pack Brave New World.

JT: That would have been your answer to the question for the past 70 weekends, too, right?

TB: Yes. 

JT: This is something that most games criticism doesn’t take into account, at least outside of the online multiplayer world—the contingent of people who pretty much focus on one video game for a long time. So why is Civ V your game?

TB: I have enjoyed the Civilization series since the third one. I was around 11 or 12 at that time. What drew me to the game, outside of the micromanaging, was the fact that you can build up a nation however you see fit. I can build the Hagia Sophia as the Aztecs or Zulus, and can choose to be diplomatic, a warmonger, or win by direct culture. The latter of which I enjoy. Some satisfaction comes from a city coming over to my nation because their people purely can’t resist my culture.

JT: The Brave New World expansion brought the culture victory back, right? It was in Civilization IV, and then it mostly disappeared in plain vanilla Civ V.

TB: Exactly, which is what I loved the most about this. It expanded on religion as well. The culture and religion aspect, along with the introduction of a World Congress, where we can embargo certain nations and ban certain luxuries, makes the late game that much more interesting. So you’re almost playing a few games. One is war in the beginning by defending your growing nation from barbarians. The next is treading expansion with other nations and city-states. And then managing which social policies you want to adopt based off of resources, location and building focuses. 

JT: I like achieving victory through soft power just like you. What other tendencies do you have?

TB: I enjoy dominating the entire map and nations but keeping city-states intact. 

JT: Yeah, you’ve got to do right by the city-states. They’ll pay you back in time.

TB: Exactly! I’m not a monster. 

JT: I also feel sorry for them. They’re baby nations that will never grow up.

TB: Someone needs to protect them and foster and nurture that dependence. 

JT: Do you think you’ll ever get tired of Civ? I mean, it’s been like a decade and a half now.

TB: I bounce around. It’s an old cliché where I see others on Reddit talk about how they would play until 4 a.m. because they lose track of time. However, it’s true. You start playing, and the next thing you know, a few hours have gone by, and you’re only in the medieval era. And every game is different—the maps, the resources, the characters. As long as they keep on pushing out new updates and improving the ways to victory, while also introducing new nations with enhanced perks, then I will keep on buying. 

JT: So you’re not one of those people who works yourself into a froth over the changes they make in each sequel? Seems that you like it when they mix it up a little.

TB: I embrace the changes as long as they move the gameplay forward. There is a strategy to each person, but you are able to customize the gameplay to your own liking. If I wanted to expand how I see fit, and not be unencumbered by other nations, I choose [the] “continents” [style of map]. Where I expand in my own territory and then explore the wide open ocean for other, less developed countries. Which—side note—is always frustrating, when a spearman can still do damage against airplanes or machine gunners. Hard to conceptualize, but is a game after all. 

JT: Sid Meier talked about that in his keynote at the Game Developers Conference a few years ago. You might enjoy checking it out. The topic of his speech was “Why the people who play my game are idiots who I can manipulate at will.”

TB: [Looks up the video.] Well, he’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt in 2010, so he is probably a bit off anyway.

JT: Do you ever play other video games? And are you and I ever going to build that MAME [arcade game emulator] cabinet for the Onion office?

TB: Of course. I enjoy RPGs. Fallout 3 is probably my favorite game. Bethesda does amazing work, and I always anticipate their games. Regarding the MAME cabinet, I need help from enthusiasts such as yourself. We will make this happen though, John. Give it time! It’ll compliment the kegerator quite nicely. 

JT: I bet there are folks among the Gameological commentariat who have built one. They can probably give us some tips. That was a pretty subtle hint there.

TB: Or maybe those that have an extra one lying around—although it would be fun to build something from scratch, with guidance from the community....

More What Are You Playing This Weekend?