"It's your turn," my dad says as he comes into the kitchen and relieves me of the job of drying the dishes.
"It's what?" my mom says, before realizing what's going on. "Oh, your game."
The game she's referring to is Civilization IV, and the scene has become a familiar one in recent years. But while Mom may not understand why we find the game so appealing, it's clear to both of us that these games have become an important addition to our relationship as father and son. More so with the addition of email games, which have allowed Civilization to become an important means for us to remain in constant contact.
My initial introduction to the 4X genre (the 'X's standing for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) was through a demo of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, but because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I quickly lost interest. It wasn't until after I played a copy of Civilization IV my dad purchased that I realized just what I had been missing out on. One tutorial-led game and an all-nighter later, I learned both the power of "one more turn" and how amazing the series truly was.
"I hadn't been playing many games for quite a few years," my dad said, explaining his own introduction to the series, "but I had that old version of [Age of Empires II] and I recalled having enjoyed that somewhat and so as I finished my doctorate ... I was looking for a diversion and I looked up reviews of Age of Empires and somewhere in there I read something about Civilization and thought it might be worth a look."
"Hey, Dad," I say as the two of us sit near his computer, taking turns in one of our "hot seat" games. "Want to declare war on Mehmed?"
When I point out to him that Mehmed is making strides towards a space race victory, he quickly agrees to the idea. So we begin to divide and conquer the Ottoman Empire.
"The sense of it being this game on a massive scale that takes in human history," Dad says when I ask him just what it is he finds appealing about Civilization IV. The full explanation of what he gets out of the game goes beyond implications I might have ever imagined on my own, from economics to religion to what can and can't be controlled. But as I listen to Dad's explanation, I recognize some of my own reasons for enjoying the game so much.
For one, there's the historical interest, something that I no doubt acquired from my parents. Growing up, my parents took my brothers and me to visit important historical sites across the US during our yearly family road trips. Vicksburg, the USS Constitution, Bunker Hill, and other sites from Cape Canaveral to the Arctic Circle in Alaska became important stops as our parents tried to turn our summers into learning opportunities.