Alice Noel: From Village to Empire / 4X Games and Systematic Ideology

Winner, 2021 George Walford International Essay Prize.

‘When we consider humanity in its context we see the concrete outcome of evolution to be the whole system of being, from inorganic matter to sophisticated society, and this can usefully be envisaged as a stepped pyramid, with each level resting upon the one below and each step upwards marked by the appearance of a complexity of organisation not formerly known.’ [1]

So summarises George Walford after establishing the stages of that ideological ‘pyramid’ central to the theory of Systematic Ideology—a pyramid which I propose has found itself a model in the form of 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) Games. These games have steadily grown in popularity and influence since their origin in the 1980s to complex systems of their own. Players of this genre are encouraged to build and shape populations with the aim of asserting domination over others. It is the programmed process of the development of these computerised populations, constructed on the basis of human history, which I shall argue provides an interactive model resembling that of Walford’s theory of Systematic Ideology.

I shall initially outline the theory of Systematic Ideology and the stages it contains, and proceed to assess the relationship between the model and the stages of development within 4X Games, using Sid Meier’s Civilisation VI. I have chosen this particular game as my example due to its position as the highest ranking 4X game on Steam’s list of top games by current player count, and its established “eras” which make it the most suitable candidate for analysis. [2]

Systematic Ideology
Systematic Ideology is a theory formed by George Walford, building upon Harold Walsby’s theories of ideology developed in the 1930s. Walsby’s initial proposition was that ideology was and is the central motivator in human affairs and can be split into two main phases: the eidostatic and the eidodynamic. [3] The first of these—the eidostatic—represents the stages of ideological development beginning ‘approximately at birth’ and continuing ‘well into the first stages of the scientific mode of thought’. [4] Those exhibiting ideologies within the eidostatic phase are conservative in their attitude of wishing to maintain the status quo, as well as view the external cosmos as responsible for placing limitations on their freedom. [5] Those within the second phase—the eidodynamic—contrastingly seek reform and change and are associated with the political expressions of socialism, communism and anarchism, as the stages within this phase become more radical. [6] The ideological groups within this phase view society as the source of limitation, which can only be resolved through the means of progressively more extreme change. [7]

Using Walsby’s terms of eidostatic and eidodynamic, Walford sought to further establish the more detailed stages within these phases. He resolved that each phase contained three stages; the protostatic, epistatic and parastatic within the eidostatic phase, and the protodynamic, epidynamic and paradynamic within the eidodynamic phase. [8] Walford also established there is a seventh to this list of ‘the major ideologies’: the metadynamic, which rests outside Walsby’s phases due to it being focused on the ideology of ideology itself. [9] Progression from each of these ideological stages into the next does not mean the erasure of the new stage’s predecessors, but rather that their influence is retained. Without having developed through the previous ideological stages, it is not possible to reach those further along the model; ‘the presence of a person at any point in the series shows him to have passed through the preceding phases’.[10]

The first of the eidostatic ideologies, the protostatic, is the simplest stage of the ideological pyramid. People aligned with this stage—also referred to as the stage of expediency—follow ‘the convenient or advantageous course without regard to any more remote or long-term considerations.’ [11] Exhibiting a collectivistic attitude towards political-intellectual life and an individualistic attitude towards economic-material affairs, the expedient ideology is best demonstrated among hunter-gatherer communities, ‘living on what grew naturally’ and prioritising the preservation of the social unit. [12] Walsby suggests that this early stage in the eidostatic phase is represented in political expression by fascism. The attribute of political- intellectual collectivism can be seen in the example of the Nazi Party’s eradication of ideological opposition, as well as its anti-intellectual attitude and reliance on the emotional suggestibility of the masses. [13] This does not mean, however, that all protostatics are fascists. Indeed, Walford argues that the protostatics are better defined as the ‘non-politicals’. [14] This stage is fundamental to ideological development, as Walford states, ‘we all begin life as protostatics’. [15]
Out of the protostatic stage emerges the epistatic, also referred to by Walford as the ideology of principle. [16] The epistatic ideology does not eradicate, but rather coexists with and predominates over aspects of the protostatic, society develops into what Walford describes as ‘the society of Domination.’ [17] The epistatic ideology sees a simultaneous converse shift towards economic collectivism and political individualism, as the community recognises that dividing labour can benefit society as a whole, causing production to become ‘a social enterprise’. [18] The political expression of this ideology is conservatism, as it acknowledges the right to existence of other social groups but actively prioritises the maintenance of society as it is, rather than risk change in search of perfection. [19]

The third and final stage of the eidostatic phase is the parastatic, or precision, ideology. This stage accepts the need for limited change, though again this is with a view to preserving the status quo and is generally focused on physical sciences. [20] Seeking ‘to specify principles exactly and put them fully into practice’, this stage is the most complex of the eidostatic ideologies. [21] Rather than merely viewing the cosmos and other worldviews as the “other”, the ideology of precision uses scientific study as a means to understand external factors and to avoid or limit the impact of encounters with obstacles which may be detrimental to society as a whole. [22] The political expression of the parastatic ideology is liberalism, however as Walford observes, although liberalism may seek precision to better equip itself, this does not always mean it is successful in obtaining it. [23]

The ideological structure now progresses into the eidodynamic phase, starting with the protodynamic ideology of reform. [24] Unlike the eidostatic stages, characterised by their resistance and reluctance for change, the eidodynamic phase associates positively with the cosmos and actively seeks alterations in society. This can be seen in the reform ideology, which is politically expressed through socialism, as it is at this point from which society, and not the cosmos, is viewed as the source of limitations and the restrictive factor on people’s freedom. Protodynamics demand greater change from within the system—more radical than any seen within the stage of precision—but set ‘out to achieve it peacefully’ rather than through revolutionary means. [25] In the progression from parastatic to protodynamic we see a distinguished shift towards economic collectivism and political individualism; the shift has been present gradually throughout the evolution of the model but it is at this point that the ideological stages actively encourage political independence and intellectualism.

Following on from the protodynamic stage is the epidynamic ideology. This stage argues that the moderate change sought by the ideology of reform is insufficient, and that the only way to cast off the restraints placed on individual freedom by society is through revolution. Finding its political expression in communism, the epidynamic ideology struggles against a wider base of eidostatics and views revolution as an inevitable and ‘necessary form of political activity and historical development’. [26] Without this fundamental upheaval, society will not be able to liberate the population from self-imposed limitations. It should be noted, however, that although the epidynamic political expression is communism, this does not mean the communist state, as no form of the latter has yet existed without contradicting the theories established by their founders. [27]

The sixth and penultimate of the major ideologies is that of the paradynamic, also referred to by Walford as the ‘repudiation’ ideology. [28] It is in this stage that the ideology of revolution steps fully into theory by progressing into repudiation, which finds political expression in anarchism. This stage of the eidodynamic phase fully rejects all matters which limit political-intellectual freedom in any capacity, including any form of class, religion or government. [29] Support within the population for this stage, however, is considerably less than for the previous stages— particularly the eidostatic. [30] The repudiation ideology therefore struggles against a large eidostatic base which endures throughout the model, as it is unable to forcibly impose an anarchistic society upon a reluctant population without undermining its status as such.

The final of the major ideologies defined by Walford is the metadynamic ideology, which concerns itself with the ideology of ideology. [31] In this final stage, it is no longer society which is seen as the limiting factor on freedom, nor is it the cosmos. Instead, the limiting factor becomes ideology itself; this is evident in the anarchist paradox, where anarchists would undermine their own ideological principles if they were to impose their ideology of repudiation upon unwilling participants, or if they were to compromise and permit a society which still accepted concepts such as private ownership. [32] The metadynamic ideology therefore tasks itself with the resolution of this paradox and accepts the existence of all ideologies preceding it. This stage also recognises that ‘all the assumptions of all the previous ideologies are problems which have to be dealt with ad hoc’. [33] Adherents to this ideology attempt to understand ideology and thereby remove it as a freedom-limiting factor.

What is Civilisation VI?
After establishing Walford’s theory of Systematic Ideology, we must now turn to its relevance to
4X games.

In the 1980s, videogame developers began to produce complex, often turn-based, strategy games with the aim of constructing an empire, building on the more limited games of this form available in the 1970s. An abbreviation of explore, expand, exploit and exterminate, these strategy games were dubbed “4X”, although not all games within the genre necessarily fulfil each of these categories. In relation to the genre, explore means to search the game map and discover territories nearby. Expand is to grow existing territories as well as settle within and establish new ones. Exploit is to employ the use of resources within the territories under the player’s control and exterminate is to destroy rivals within the game. Together, these make the four phases. [34]

Sid Meier’s Civilization series began in 1991 with Civilization, based upon the strategy board game of the same name. Since then, five more iterations of the game have been released, with the most recent in 2016. Although the game series is focused on only two of the four phases involved in many 4X games—expansion and exploitation—it fulfills the empire-establishing intent of the genre; its strapline is ‘to build an empire that would stand the test of time’. [35] To this purpose, players must progress through nine different “eras”, each of which contain different technologies and policies, referred to as “civics”, at their disposal. In order to access more advanced technologies and civics in later eras, certain prerequisites must often have been met, encouraging players to choose and commit to a strategy throughout the game. The eras loosely reflect those of western history: Ancient, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Industrial, Modern, Atomic, Information and Future.

As the game draws on elements of human history, although predominantly western, it would be expected that it would fit the model of Systematic Ideology, which Walford developed through observations of human behaviour. However, since the game aims for the player to stamp their own mark on history, to attempt to create their own version of it, there is perhaps more room to speculate about the extent to which this is possible. Due to the game’s programming, there are limitations to the freedom a player has within the game, and Matthew Kapell argues in his study of one of Civilization’s earlier iterations that ‘Civilization is a game about a specifically defined kind of historical and socioeconomic progress’; the progression of Systematic Ideology through a Eurocentric lens. [36]
It is the era structure and the civics and technologies players unlock, that I propose makes Civilisation VI an interactive model for Systematic Ideology. Out of the numerous iterations of Civilization I have chosen the sixth as it is the most played edition and features the newest available technology and policy paths. [37] Each era’s new features build on—without erasing— those of the preceding eras; the programming permits the selection of competing values, enabling the change and development visible within Systematic Ideology. [38] Each era can also be demonstrated to align with the characteristics of each of the ideological stages. I will therefore proceed to examine the game’s programmed eras in conjunction with their associated ideological phase.

Civilisation VI as a model for Systematic Ideology
a. Ancient Era: The Protostatic
The first of the eras is the Ancient Era, the timeframe of which ranges from 4000-1000BC. This is the era in which games of Civilisation VI begin, with hunter-gatherer communities who quickly establish primitive settlements. At this point, the game’s focus is primarily on consumption, using the immediate resources the land tiles have to offer, as well as exploring the nearby area with the intention of finding more supplies. As the player can explore according to the best distribution of resources before establishing a settlement, this era most closely represents the ideological stage of expediency. Although the nomadic period is brief before the player settles, in this early part of the Ancient Era there is next to no production, as players exploit their surroundings, exhausting them in the establishment of a settlement.

From the limited technological advancements available without prerequisites—pottery, animal husbandry and mining—it is evident that these are fulfilling the basic developments needed for the communities to extract resources from the area around them. [39] It is this attitude towards resources which reflects the ethos of expediency, the player ‘following the convenient or advantageous course without regard to any more remote or long-term considerations’. [40] Fundamentally, at this point in the game, the player requires resources and will locate their first settlement in the best location they can to suit this purpose.

In his article for Vice, Gabriel Soares reflects on the need to settle as a negative requirement of the game, arguing the fact that ‘your first choice is where to settle, to become sedentary’ constrains the options of the player and implies that settlement is the only method through which societies can establish and develop. Yet when viewing this aspect of the game in conjunction with Walford’s theory, it becomes evident that the majority of communities would seek to settle in order to cast off the limitations they experience from relying on immediate needs. Otherwise, the finite resources in the immediate vicinity, without the development of cultivation, would prevent the social group from growing past a manageable size. This would directly contradict and hinder the primary aim of the game: to build an empire.

Furthermore, the Ancient Era possesses little in the way of diplomatic civics. True to the nature of the protostatic, a civilization of the Ancient Era ‘tends to identify exclusively within its own social unit.’ [41] Primary threats to players’ in-game communities at this stage are barbarian attackers, with whom the player has no means of negotiating. Rather, it is expected that players will defend their early settlers through combat; there is no space for other social units at this ideological stage. In addition, the emergence of one sole trade civic at this point in the game aligns with the protostatics’ lack of acknowledgement for other social groups.

b. Classical Era: The Epistatic
As the game pushes players into the ‘acceptance that unrestrained Expediency is insufficient’, so emerge the characteristics of the epistatic stage, moving the player’s settlement towards the society of domination. [42] At the end of the Ancient Era, players are expected to have established small settlements which they are likely to have defended from barbarian attacks, and which may now possess what can loosely be described as the foundations of government. Having progressed into the Classical Era, the technologies and civics begin to extend beyond what is immediately convenient; they now include political philosophy, theology, currency and other policies and developments which demonstrate greater consideration of long-term impacts and desires. [43] The characteristics of principle begin to emerge as players decide ‘how and where their crops and herds shall grow’, as well as build governmental structures which begin to impose a more rigid hierarchy on their settlements.
The civic of political philosophy enables players to access the first three forms of early government: Autocracy, Oligarchy and Classical Republic. These hierarchal structures, combined with a more intricate distribution of responsibilities through military training and defensive tactics policies, imply the small shift towards economic-material collectivism evident in the stage of principle. Benefiting from the powers of collectivity, players’ settlements develop in ways which further the means of the society as well as defend it from external forces. [44] Commitment to the principles of duty and loyalty is also visible in the development of defensive tactics; acceptance of technological development not in a ‘chase after perfection’ but to preserve the status quo. [45]

Theology also takes its place among the civic developments, echoing the argument laid out by Walford that the acceptance of a religious figurehead is a significant step in the long process towards anarchism; ‘once we join a movement […] our unquestioning submission to the state starts to break down’. [46] Although this functions within the confines of the game’s algorithm, as we shall see in the later eras, religious policies continue to develop until they are superceded by science. Questioning of the status quo instigated by following leadership other than that of the state and the subsequent search for improvement therefore is still evident within the game. Development of this civic rewards players with an envoy, as does the development of military training. This indicates that during the Classical Era, settlements acknowledge the existence of other societies but only interact with them where it can benefit the player’s own civilization.

c. Medieval Era: The Epistatic
Continuing the epistatic stage of ideology, the Medieval Era demonstrates the multiplicity of the ideological model. Rather than erase the preceding stages, new policies and technologies build on and coexist with them. In this era, players are able to consolidate their military strength and the fortifications of their expanding settlements; protecting against threats from the cosmos remains a priority.

During this period of the game, the majority of technologies reflect the need to preserve and consolidate settlements; players’ options influence and shape the strength of their armies, with military tactics, stirrups, machinery, military engineering and castles all driving towards this intention. Matthew Kapell argues that without these technological advances ‘in both thought and territory a player is quite literally doomed to defeat’. [47] This compelled advancement and continued progression is a necessity for players to advance and ultimately win the game. While the Medieval Era consolidates the progression from the Classical, parastatic elements also begin to emerge as groundwork for the Renaissance Era. This groundwork is possible through the education technology, which enables greater scientific development in the later eras by unlocking a significant portion of the Renaissance Era technological tree.

A key civic which players can develop in the Medieval Era is the concept of divine right, enforcing the leader’s right to rule and creating pathways to more modern forms of government in later stages. [48] In this way, it continues to support Walford’s assessment of religion being significant in the process of ideological development. The divine right civic therefore performs two roles simultaneously; it cements the authority of the civilization’s leader, maintaining the present situation and enforcing the society’s principles, while also paving the way for future development in the stage of precision.

d. Renaissance Era: The Parastatic
The shift into the Renaissance Era sees the characteristics and features of the parastatic stage come into focus; players are able to develop their civilizations technologically to a far greater extent as the game embraces the ethos of precision. Once more encouraged to maintain developmental momentum in order to progress towards the ultimate goal of winning the game, players are presented with technological policies and civics which seek to put the principles established in the epistatic stage ‘fully into practice’. [49]

The technological advancements which players can make are, again, primarily associated with the military—cartography and gun powder see to it that the game’s focus in this era is to apply greater scientific discovery to the defence and expansion of the empire. Improved technology in the players’ hands also means that they are able to rethink their long-term strategy, exhibiting the feature of the precision ideology which enables it to perceive limits and obstacles before encountering them, thereby reducing their negative impact. [50] This is furthered by the diplomatic service civic, which demonstrates a greater recognition of other civilizations within the game. Yet as it also unlocks the player’s first “spy”, it suggests that this civic still adheres to the parastatic ideology’s acceptance of multiplicity as a means of expanding the interests of the social group against the cosmos.

However, the game’s advancement of technology and science is no longer limited to those which would solely protect the social group; astronomy and printing are both technologies which players can now choose to develop. As the game’s dedicated encyclopaedia (Civlopedia) states, ‘while astrology uses a mixture of both facts and faith […] astronomy uses only science.’ [51] This shift towards ‘”hard” science, logic and accountancy’ from religion occurs conversely with the option of establishing a reformed church, although both mark the trait which is key to this stage of the ideological model: the seeking of precision. [52]

In the Renaissance Era, players are also able to make the first, limited, steps towards mass production by constructing a lumber mill. While it will take progression through the following era—the Industrial—to escape from the limits of production and turn towards society as the source of limitations, it is here that the seeds are sown, unlocking the stage of industrialisation on the technology tree. At this point in the game, little can be constructed from the lumber mill, and it is of most use to sea-faring nations. [53] This aligns with Walford’s assertion that those in the eidostatic stages ‘tend to focus on the situation facing them […] taking little interest in long- range theorising.’ [54] Although Civilisation VI’s nature as a strategy game encourages long-term planning for victory, the limitations of this development in the Renaissance Era mean players may prioritise other technologies which have more immediate benefits, exhibiting the eidostatic approach.

In the Renaissance Era we can therefore see the multiplicity of Systematic Ideology at work; while some areas may experience advancement and be prioritised due to their role in a player’s strategy, other areas may experience the conservatism of the preceding stages or establishing dominance over the others. Similarly, due to the technological tree along which the player’s civilization progresses, the reliance on the existence of the previous stages is abundantly clear; ‘since the former limitations are overcome, not eliminated, the outcome is an increasingly complex dynamic system.’ [55]

e. Industrial Era: The Parastatic
Building on the Medieval Era’s parastatic policies and developments, the Industrial Era further dedicates itself to greater scientific and industrial improvement. This era is now the time to ‘start managing your growing empire and direction it towards a certain type of victory’, as the directions for player strategies reach a point where all pathways are now available. [56] This era rests on the cusp between the parastatic and protodynamic stages; although planning may now occur with lengthier repercussions in mind, the technological advancement has not yet been made to free the limitations placed on the player’s empire by the in-game cosmos.

To that effect, players can now prioritise rapid industrialisation to rid themselves of the confines of limited means of production. If players have not already developed mass production technology in the Renaissance Era, they must now do so in order to progress to full-scale industrialisation. This is one of the most significant developments available to players in this period, and it is also the development which enables the following eras to work as models for the eidodynamic phase of Walford’s model. Free of production and external limitations, society will be able to turn its attention to the confines it places upon itself.

Scientific developments continue in the Industrial Era, ranging from scientific theory, to steam power, to military science. From these three different aspects it is evident that the Industrial Era maintains the eidostatic characteristic of viewing social groups beyond itself as a potential threat, as its scientific advances are still employed in the means to retain the upper hand over other groups. Equally the gradual progress towards the eidodynamic phase is visible due to the growing emphasis we have seen throughout the Industrial and Renaissance eras on the development of intellectualism through increasingly scientific policies. Walsby’s argument that the eidostatic phase continued ‘through superstitious and primitive religious stages, well into the first stages of the scientific mode of thought’ has so far been demonstrably evident throughout each of Civilisation VI’s eras. [57]

d. Modern Era: The Protodynamic
We move now into the first of the eidodynamic stages—the protodynamic—which is represented in Civilisation VI across both the Modern and Atomic Eras. For the first time in the game, production of resources is not a concern as the industrialisation technology ensures all means of production are now accounted for. Instead, players can turn to technological and scientific developments which improve not only their military capability, but their cultural status, too. Combining this with the civic developments available, which now include ideology, suffrage, class struggle and totalitarianism, the change in the game’s focus from cosmos to society is clear.

Exhibiting the ‘eidodynamic reorientation of the ideological structure’ —from political collectivism to individualism and economic individualism to collectivism—the Modern Era’s technology policies enable the player to implement changes which have longer-term impacts on the welfare of their empires. [58] Now that production is no longer a concern, both electricity and flight become available, which in turn improve players’ options for electrical supply and for transport. The latter in particular has a positive effect on the in-game society, as it improves tourism and the attitude towards multiplicity; positive acceptance of other worldviews being a feature of the politically-individualist protodynamic stage.
Improved economics also reflects the shift towards economic collectivism, as the technology of replaceable parts prioritises the needs of society as a whole in improving farming technologies. Furthermore, the development of radio within the game improves conditions for the civilization as a whole; opening up the technology tree to seaside resorts, film studios and broadcast centres. [59] Rather than focusing on external groups and defending against them, the changes visible here are beneficial to the culture of the player’s own society. Although these reforms and changes may not be drastic in their scale, they reflect the ‘accumulation of minor changes’ seen within the protodynamic stage of Walford’s model. [60]

From the civic aspect, it is in the Modern Era that we finally see key governmental changes become available. By developing the ideology civic, players are unable to unlock suffrage, totalitarianism and class struggle, which lead to the governments of democracy, fascism and communism respectively. [61] As the extensive change that implements these governments is not immediate in effect, the gradual policy-making involved in the steps towards these replicates the profound but peaceful and gradual reform protodynamics seek in improving society. [62] It should also be noted that since the Industrial Era, none of the subsequent eras have contained a religious-based civic. It served the purpose of starting the player ‘on facing the big issues and making responsible decisions’ but has since been superceded by science and a focus on change in the government of the civilization. [63]

f. Atomic Era: The Protodynamic
An era with one of the fewest civic developments, the Atomic Era can largely be seen as an extension of the Modern, continuing the protodynamic stage as the governments selected in the preceding era become established. The technological advancements in this Era improve scientific discovery as well as transport links for the benefit of the player’s city, continuing to embrace intellectualism. As ‘different ideological groups of individuals become related in different ways to the whole mechanism […] of the social organism, and form a similar hierarchy of functions’, so can we see looking back through the eras from this point how a hierarchy has emerged on the technological tree and the development of civic policies. [64]

The presence of multiple ideological stages within a society which Walsby observes is also true of the stages of development throughout the eras in Civilisation VI. This is evident in the observation that upon developing nuclear fission, players can choose to ‘produce clean energy for [their] cities in peace, or to destroy the enemy in war.’ [65] The first option fits with the protodynamic attitude to technological reform, whereas the second would suit the hostility to other social groups expressed by an eidostatic ideology.

Therefore, while there may be little active civic change in the Atomic Era, it exhibits the trait Walford describes of eidodynamics; ‘that they do not continue to change things once they have established themselves as the new authorities in their own fields’. [66] Instead, it would take another wave of drastic change to alter society further and create a system of government completely afresh.

g. Information Era: The Epidynamic
The penultimate era is the Information Era, which overhauls the governments established in the Modern Era and replaces them with a choice from Corporate Libertarianism, Digital Democracy or Synthetic Technocracy. Achievable after completing the globalisation civic, these governments may not be developed through a full-scale revolution as Walford argues the epidynamic group demands; a player is unable to revolt against themselves. Yet the change is dramatic enough to alter the system of government without going through slow, steady reform as indicated by the protodynamic stage. [67] Civics such as near future governance represent ‘a hypothetical next step in how people organise themselves into governments’; this step into theory mirrors the challenges of the epidynamic and paradynamic stages of Systematic Ideology, as they have no working historical precedent outside of theory. [68]

The technologies available in the Information Era demonstrate a continued drive towards scientific exploration and expansion; this becomes linked with civic policies too, as two out of the three new forms of government are digitised. [69] Digital Democracy enables all citizens to express an opinion on the matters of state, theoretically creating the vocal equality demanded by the ideology of revolution. Synthetic Technocracy, on the other hand, embodies the need for rational explanations and logically consistent behaviour which is demanded from the eidodynamic phase, particularly towards the metadynamic end, of Systematic Ideology. [70] These policies for overhauling the system of government, either to ensure an equal voice on all matters—despite issues with practicality—or for the rationality of AI to take command and thereby resolve the class conflict, demonstrate the radicalism of the epidynamic stage.

Walford reflects on the importance of the ideological groups which halt at lower stages of the model, likening them to the ‘particles [which] have not been taken up into living matter at all but continue to constitute the physical universe [making] these higher developments possible.’ [71] So is true of the policies and technologies which may remain less developed at this stage of the game; without them, others would not have been developed, and the same goes for the policies and technologies which had to be completed to obtain access to those in later eras. Therefore, although the Information Era most closely represents the epidynamic, or revolution, stage, which according to Walford should condemn greenism, the presence of an environmentalism civic reflects instead the multiplicity of the model. [72] It should be remembered that simply because one ideological group has progressed to the next stage, this does not mean that the whole society participates in this theory.

h. Future Era: The Paradynamic
The final era of Civilisation VI is the Future Era. Although not an original component of the game—instead available as part of the Gathering Storm expansion pack—this final era is the closest to reflecting the anarchistic stage of Systematic Ideology; the paradynamic.

Although there are no policies for the eradication of government and for establishing a society of repudiation, the exodus imperative policy suggests that without abandoning the current civilization and settling elsewhere, ‘humanity will fail to achieve its potential’. [73] On the one hand, this could be taken to imply that humanity will run out of resources or means for exploration, however as by this point it is expected that players will have mitigated the limitation of production, it also implies that the only way for humanity to reach this potential is by abandoning present society and its confines. Instead, an exodus would mean repudiation of that society, its authority and ‘all that has gone before’. [74]

Alternatively, the cultural hegemony civic implies the potential for in-game existence of the anarchist paradox which Walford observed in his studies. The player’s potential to influence the civilisations around them arguably induces the paradox as the exterior societies are not willing participants and may find their cultures, languages and rituals overridden by the player’s hegemonic culture. If ‘the ethos of anarchism stresses rejection of all that would limit political- intellectual freedom’, then a hegemonic culture directly flouts this. [75]

Lastly, the Future Era hints at the possibility for the inclusion of Walford’s metadynamic stage in the Civilisation VI model. Players can spend resources on “researching” the future civic more than once and according to the game’s encyclopaedia is to remind players that ‘the future must look to its own problems, while drawing on the wisdom of past ages.’ [76] Walford asserts that the metadynamic stage recognises and accepts all the ideological stages which have come before, and ‘has for its task resolution of the problems arising from their interaction’. [77] Although there is no way for players to explore beyond this, the civic serves as an acknowledgement that there are multiple, complex processes interacting with each other which have resulted in a multiplicitous society.

From this study, it is evident that the eras of Civilisation VI and their technological and civic components reflect the features and development of Walford’s model of Systematic Ideology. While some who have studied the relationship between ideology and the Civilization series argue that players are locked ‘into an ideological model’ which deems there to be only one direction in which societies and civilisations can progress, assessing the game in conjunction with Systematic Ideology indicates more complex conclusions should be drawn. [78] In his study of Systematic Ideology in India, Michael Rayner observed that although Walford’s particular model was a Eurocentric impression, Systematic Ideology itself is not culturally specific. [79] Therefore despite Civilisation VI and the rest of its series presenting only a western pattern of development, it could still represent the ideological model if it followed an eastern pattern instead.

Not only does Civilisation VI display the development of ideological stages as described by Walford’s model, but it also accurately represents the complexity of society due to the presence of multiple simultaneous ideological groups, as well as the reliance on the existence of earlier stages for the later stages to come into being. It is possible, therefore, that 4X games could be used to engage wider groups with Walford’s ideological theory, as they are already doing so subconsciously on a large scale. However, as this study assessed only one 4X game in conjunction with Systematic Ideology, a wider exploration would be needed in order to determine whether the resemblance is present beyond the scope of the Civilization series.

Evidently, the influence of strategy games and their ability to grasp and emulate complex, real- world concepts merits further study as the genre continues to expand in usership, explore its limits, exploit human history and exterminate its competitors.

[1] George Walford, “The Evolution of Ideology,” Beyond Politics, (London: Calabria Press, 1990)
[2] [Accessed May 29, 2021]
[3] Harold Walsby, “Development and Repression”, The Domain of Ideologies, (Glasgow: William Maclellan in collaboration with the Social Science Association, 2009)
[4] Walsby, “Development and Repression”
[5] Lamm, Zvi, “Ideologies in a Hierarchal Order,” Science and Public Policy, (Feb 1984)
[6] Walsby, “Development and Repression”
[7] George Walford, “The Cosmic Situation,” An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, (London: the Bookshop, 1977)
[8] George Walford, “The Major Ideologies,” An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, (London: the Bookshop, 1977)
[9] Walford, “The Major Ideologies”
[10] George Walford, “Ideological Development,” An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology, (London: the Bookshop, 1977)
[11] George Walford, “Politics to Ideology,” Beyond Politics, (London: Calabria Press, 1990)
[12] George Walford, “Ideology Beyond Politics”, Beyond Politics, (London: Calabria Press, 1990)
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