Civilization IV and Political Economy

I’ve become an enormous fan of CivIV after getting back into the Civ game through playing it on PS3 (then DSlite). Now I’m playing on PC and have worked my way through the game to play the Beyond the Sword addition. I’m loving it, after being a huge fan of it way back in the early 90s when I played the very first Civ game on PC. Apart from enjoying the scope and depth of the game as you build your empire and negotiate the other civs I’ve found many overlaps with the theories and ideas I’m working through in Media and Communications studies. I’m currently reading Benkler’s ‘wealth of networks’ and finding that I can get my head around some of his more complex categories of market and nonmarket knowledge production through drawing upon my fascination with CivIV’s game mechanics.
For instance the ideal-type information production strategies Benkler identifies (from Romantic Maximizers , Michey’s to Joe Einstein’s) reminds me of the civics and leader traits, both define how actions, agendas, and benefits are organised around certain preferences and traits. If you understand how these work, you’ll be able to ‘game’ the systems – eg: look for exploits, look for winning strategies, appreciate context, etc.
I’ve also got to admit that being a scholar whose always been more interested in cultural studies, audience theory and reception issues I’ve always felt a little bit prejudiced against the empirical social science methods such as Political Economy. But I’m beginning to see that my enjoyment of getting into the deeper mechanics of CivIV (exploring FAQs and guides for successful city maintenance, warmongerring, great people produciton, etc) is based on a similar empirical scrutinty that lies within Pol Eco. What further insights that benefit both work and pleasure await?

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