Civilization Game in the Classroom


Sid Meier's Civilization series of games  -- first appearing in 1991 -- are popular turn-based strategy games in which the player attempts to guide his "civilization" from barely post-Stone Age to the modern era.  Each turn allows the player to move units (or "pieces") on a map, build and expand cities, and initiate negotiations with the computer-controlled players (which represent leaders of rival tribes or civilizations). The player must also guide his civilization's technology research, economic and military strategies as well as development of a strong and vibrant culture.   The game has attracted interest from educators due to to the game's open-platform construction which allows customization and control of most elements and the ability to create reasonably accurate re-enactments of historical events and times.

The five lesson plans in this series will cover a few different ways of using Civilization in the classroom.  Ranging from a semester-long project based around starting a tribe in game-year 4000BC and playing until victory or defeat, to shorter one-or-two-class-period lessons examining certain elements of interaction between tribes or nation-states.

In addition, I have included two student survey/assessments to be completed at the beginning and end of the semester in order let the instructor gauge the effectiveness and enthusiasm of the students have towards this style of education.

This is a complex game.  It is advised that the instructor become very familiar with the game, its rules, possible outcomes, pitfalls and the creation and use of pre-made modules or saved games. 

A final note regarding sources:   There is a great deal of information on the web about playing Civilization, as well as gameplay tips and techniques, which I used for general background information.  However, I should specifically reference the 2004 doctoral thesis written by Kurt D. Squire of Indiana University, "Replaying History: Learning World History Through Playing Civilization III", from which I gained several useful insights for developing lesson plans based on Civilization.

The Lessons:

1) Introduction to Civilization IV
Play tutorial, learn how to manipulate units, harvest resources, utilize workers, gain technologies and knowledge.

2) Full game
Attempt to achieve one of the “goals” of the game and be able to explain what your methods of success were and how they helped your achieve the goal.

3) 100 Years in Rome
Play the scenario twice for 100 years each time.  What happens if you play and concentrate on developing a single city?  What if you develop multiple cities?  If you concentrate on weapons and technology development, how do the other cultures respond?  How is your diplomacy affected?

4) Build Me A Spaceship
Utilizing the Industrial Age save-game, attempt to win the game through Space race by game-year 2050.  (“Domination” win is also possible) “War” is turned off in this scenario so building and maintaining military units is not necessary.

5) Discovery
Using an idea tool like Prezi, Glogster or Inspiration, “map out” a set of advancements the resulted in real life from a major technological or cultural discovery made by your game civilization.

Additional Files:

In addition to the Lesson Files above, I have included some additional files to be used with the lessons and to help with your lesson design:
  • There is a Standards Map that aligns the lessons to to NH State and ISTE standards.
  • The Civilization Log Sheet is the daily record of each student, or team's activities in the game.  This will help the student remember the important game events over the course of a campaign.
  • Student Interview sheets will help you judge student response to the use of the game in a classroom setting.  There is one for the beginning of the course, and one for the end.
  • The FAQ sheet gives some basic information about acquiring and using Civilization 4 in your classroom.
  • Saved Game, Lesson 3: "Romulus, King of Rome"
  • Saved Game, Lesson 4: "Industrial Age"
  • Lastly, I have included a gameplay video to give a general overview of the game for anyone not familiar with it.