Civilization IV and the Social Studies Curriculum

The Civilization IV computer game contains several concepts that can be used to strengthen students’ learning. In this post I will detail which learning aims in the Norwegian Social Studies curriculum we expect to cover, and how they relate to Civilization IV.

The Social Studies curriculum in Upper Secondary School is broken into five main areas:  the individual and society, working and business life, politics and democracy, culture and international relations. Each of these contain between five and nine competence aims that the student is expected to attain by the end of the course.

Though this game can be used in relation to certain competence aims within several of the main areas, I find it to be particularly relevant for international relations. The competence aims for international relations are as follows:

“the student should be able to:

  • define the concept of power and provide examples of how power is practised in the world
  • explain the concept of globalisation and assess various consequences of globalisation
  • provide examples of international cooperation and describe Norway’s international involvement
  • elaborate on the UN’s activities for peace and human rights and explain the UN’s role in the international activities for indigenous peoples
  • elaborate on the EU’s aims and governing bodies and discuss Norway’s relationship to the EU
  • use digital tools to find examples of different types of conflict in the world and present an international conflict and proposals for solving this conflict
  • elaborate on why some countries are poor and some rich, and discuss measures to reduce poverty in the world
  • elaborate on what characterises international terrorism and reflect on the causes of terrorism
  • discuss relations between economic growth, the environment and sustainable development”

the Directorate of Education and Training

I will here give a brief description of how some concepts in Civilization IV can be used in relation to these competence aims.

define the concept of power and provide examples of how power is practised in the world

An important aspect of the game is the interaction between leaders of different civilizations. In order to access vital resources or technologies, the player needs to enter into diplomatic agreements with other civilizations. The player’s level of success in these negotiations is dependent on their relative military, technological, economic and cultural power.

explain the concept of globalisation and assess various consequences of globalisation

Though it is theoretically possible to succeed playing this game utilizing a completely isolationist policy, the civilizations become increasingly dependent on each other throughout the game as trade partners and military allies.

provide examples of international cooperation and describe Norway’s international involvement

The player has the opportunity to enter into bi-lateral and multi-lateral treaties and agreements with the other civilizations (Trade agreements, Military alliances, embargoes etc.). Once the United Nations World Wonder has been built, civilizations can sign binding resolutions on areas such as human rights, the ban of nuclear weapons and access to the international marketplace

use digital tools to find examples of different types of conflict in the world and present an international conflict and proposals for solving this conflict

The game gives players the opportunity to simulate actual or illustrative conflicts. These simulations might give the player a greater understanding of the geo-political conditions that lead to armed conflict, and how those conflicts may be resolved.

elaborate on why some countries are poor and some rich, and discuss measures to reduce poverty in the world

Resources are divided unevenly across the playing field. Civilizations that originate near high yield resources develop more rapidly than others. Economic and population growth will quickly stagnate in civilizations that neglect the development of infrastructure (roads, railroads, irrigation). Furthermore, the choice of civics and the civilizations’ relationship with other civilizations will impact its level of affluence.

elaborate on what characterises international terrorism and reflect on the causes of terrorism

Barbarian warriors and settlements, which the player will encounter in the early stages of the game, can to a certain extent be thought of as analogous to modern non-state terrorists. In the later stages of the game poverty, oppressive governments, foreign occupation, as well as discrepancy between the religion of the people and state religion, cause unhappiness. This in turn may cause the citizenry to revolt. Several parallels can be drawn between this and the causes of terrorism.

discuss relations between economic growth, the environment and sustainable development

Throughout the game, the player will need to make choices related to the environment and sustainable development. Players must assess the needs of their civilization both in the short term and the long term in order to succeed in the game. Some choices give immediate benefits, but may lead to future disaster. For instance constructing a coal plant will increase a city’s output, but will cause pollution which may lead to a dissatisfied and diseased populationdown the line.

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About teacheraleks

Teacher of English and Social Science at Nordahl Grieg Upper Secondary School in Bergen, Norway.
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3 Responses to Civilization IV and the Social Studies Curriculum

  1. Pingback: Spill i skolen – 9 aktuelle artikler « Spillvev

  2. magnushs says:

    I like your project! Its interesting to read your reflections on how Civ4 can relate to the Social studies curriculum in so many ways. And i certainly agree that they can! However, it seems to me that some of the meeting points are quite subtle. I fear they represent insights that experienced Civ gamers can discuss deeply (i have taken advantage of that on several occations with students in my history class. I remember one boy whom i knew to be a civ-gamer, talked about “the steel swords of the Vikings”. I asked him where steel is in the Civ tech tree, and he right away understood what mistake he had made :)), but that it will take time to develop a similar understanding with non-gamers. It will be interesting to hear how you will meet this challenge. If, indeed, it is a challenge. I might be wrong.

  3. Pingback: Literature, Ethics, Physics: It’s All In Video Games At This Norwegian School | MindShift

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