War and peace, two words of complete opposite meaning. One leads to love and harmony the other leads to chaos and pain. They do not need any further explanation. However, how does Civilization IV explain processes in international relations when it comes to war and peace compared to the real world?
The first thing I noticed when playing the game, is that the world is divided into large civilizations covering huge parts of the earth. (In my case, there were three civilizations). When I played my first, and so far the only, ‘round’ of Civilization, things did not turn out that well. I managed to lead a somewhat successful civilization (depending on how you look at things) until the year 1660 when Peter, whom I first thought was my friend, backstabbed me and destroyed my poor civilization. This means that I’ve only played the game until I enter the year 1660. I didn’t get the opportunity to explore the modern world where international relations play an important role due to increased globalization. But I did, however, discover several interesting things.
Almost instantly when starting the game, you stumble upon a leader from another civilization. He offers peace, and you get the choice of whether or not to accept this deal. I quickly considered my options, and figured that declaring war at this stage was a straight out dumb idea since I had neither warriors nor resources. Later on, he offered an open borders agreement. I said yes and we started exchanging various items and people had the opportunity to move between the different civilizations.
I created this alliance with the civilization next to me for various reasons. Together we could grow big and powerful to withstand the potential threat from a third civilization. This can be compared to NATO, a military alliance established in 1949 to withstand the growing threat from the USSR. NATO has led to peace in Europe after World War 2.
When I played the game, I soon got to know Peter from Russia. We became good friends and cooperated for the common best. At least I thought so. Peter became more than twice as powerful as me due to my unstrategic decisions. After some thousand years, he declared war and refused to talk. For me, this marked the beginning of the end as mentioned earlier. He destroyed me rather easily.
This was a conflict of interest, where the resource we fought about was my territory. Having watched my tiny civilization for years, Peter couldn’t resist the tempting idea of simply invade my precious land. If we look back at the real history, we do find similar examples. In 1941, Germany broke their ‘non-attacking’ agreement with Russia and invaded them with no declaration of war. An alliance, similar to the one between Peter, and me was destroyed.
Of course, the game has limitations. A game will never be able to simulate a perfect reconstruction of the world. The game can only offer pre-programmed reactions to various decisions made by the player. The reactions are based upon how the game creators think the real world behaves. This will not cover all the possible situations. The game gives a good simulation of the world, but the world is more complex than a game can ever simulate.