Costikyan on Europa Universalis

22:52 Fri 10 Jul 2009. Updated: 00:28 28 Jul 2009
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Over the last couple of days I’ve encountered, more or less randomly, references to three computer games that each seem extremely deep, and as if they would consume vast amounts of time and attention. They are Defense of the Ancients, Dominions 3, and Europa Universalis III.

The last one is probably the best-known, as I’d heard of it before, but I had no idea it was as deep as it is. An idea of the depth can probably be gleaned from this excerpt:

[A]nytime you take money out of your monthly taxes—that is, take it as gold instead of investing—you produce inflation. In Figure 5, you’ll see that Austria’s inflation is 0.0; it will not long remain such. It accumulates over time, and increases the cost of everything you do—but never increases your tax revenues.

—Greg Costikyan. “Europa Universalis”. Well Played 1.0: Video Game, Value and Meaning. Ed. Drew Davidson. ETC Press, 2009. 111–125.

The full chapter is absolutely worth reading. The game appears to be a highly sophisticated political simulator you can run from about 1453 to 1789.

It’s extremely tempting to grab this and play it, even though it would clearly be a massive time sink. I’m motivated by the game aspect, but I’m also motivated by a desire to see how closely it adheres to my ideas about how the political history of Europe worked. (Costikyan claims that its predecessor, Europa Universalis II, is actually better from the perspective of historical accuracy.)

Each one of these games looks remarkably like something I might have wished for as a gamer in the 1990s, a fact that does make me wonder why I’m not playing any of them.

2 Responses to “Costikyan on Europa Universalis

  1. Lev Says:

    Yes, EU is a fascinating, incredibly well-engineered simulator. Yes, it’s also a colossal time sink. I usually do not play computer games but I got sucked into EU II a few years back. It’s especially fun to play an obscure and marginal principality trying to stave off the tide of history. I’d be happy to send it your way, if you dare.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    That particular scenario sounds like a ton of fun, and I’d probably love it. For the moment, however, I’m going to resist temptation—thanks anyway!

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