Using Civilization IV to Present Real-world Conflicts

The last week of our class’ work with this computer game, the students were tasked to utilize the game to present real-world international conflicts.

Normal gameplay in Civilization IV replicates concepts in international relations, but not actual events. However, by the use of player-made modifications and the in-game map editing tool (World Builder), students may set up a scenario that can emulate real world events.


Screenshot from CivMod “Dawn of Civilization” – Created by Leoreth. Some students used this or other mods from when making their screencasts.

As you can see from the above picture, World Builder allows players to place and edit cities, resources, units and geographical features on a pre-existing map. Students may then take control of all actors in the game to demonstrate phases and key events of the ongoing conflict. By recording comments in a screencast, students can efficiently communicate their understanding of causes and consequences of the conflict.

For this task the students merely edited the map to such an extent that it could be useful for their screencasts. Next time I use this game with a class, I intend to set aside more time with this tool, and have them set up short multi-player scenarios. Thereby they will get the opportunity to visualize multiple possible outcomes of an event/interaction depending on the choices made by the various factions. I believe such a process will give students an even greater understanding of the complexities of international relations.

This is the task my students completed:

“In groups of 3: Create a screencast or photostory where you present and discuss a current international conflict.” 

  • Your presentation should discuss causes for this conflict arising as well as suggestions as to how this conflict could be resolved. You are expected to demonstrate understanding of the learning material from NDLA Social Science (Norwegian Site) and to utilize correct terminology in your presentations.
  • Start your presentation by defining how you understand the term “conflict” for the purpose of this assignment.
  • Screenvideo/Screenshots from Civilization IV gameplay should be used as an illustrative tool in your presentation.
  • Duration: 7-10 minutes
  • It will be up to you to decide which digital tools you will use to make your presentation, but if you require technical assistance from your teachers we reccommend using Camstudio, standard record function in Windows and Windows Moviemaker
  • Recommended resources (In Norwegian):
  • You may select an ongoing conflict from this list, or any other ongoing or recent conflict you find interesting (subject to my approval)

You will be given some time to work on this project during class hours, but you are also expected to put in a considerable effort outside class. I strongly encourage use of google docs or other collaborative webtools in your groupwork.”

The general consensus is that this was an engaging and enjoyable task. Several groups went above and beyond my expectations, truly immersing themselves in their chosen conflicts. In comparison with other visual aids, World Builder proved to be an amazing tool. I do not know of any other tool where students are able to illustrate complex concepts with such relative ease. The user interface does have some flaws, lack of an undo function being the most important one, but all in all it is a powerful tool for this purpose.

I will encourage some of my students to post their screencasts to the student blog (Norwegian only) in the next couple of days to demonstrate a few of the different approaches to this task. In the next few days I will also write a final evaluation of this lesson unit discussing the peaks and pitfalls we have encountered in this project as well as outligning how I plan to develop this lesson unit next term.


About teacheraleks

Teacher, and Games and Learning Specialist at Nordahl Grieg Upper Secondary School in Bergen, Norway.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Using Civilization IV to Present Real-world Conflicts

  1. Reblogged this on Classroom Aid and commented:
    This is Nordahl Grieg Upper Secondary School’s project blog about our experiences in using Civilization IV as an educational tool.

    We will be running a series of lesson plans where we will utilize concepts from the game to approach curriculum goals in the subjects Norwegian, English and Social Science.

  2. imee says:

    Hi! Would you please be nice as to credit the creator of the modmod you’re using for your project?

    The game you’re using to teach, is named DAWN OF CIVILIZATION and it is not available in the original Civilization IV.. It is a modmod, which means it is based on the original Civilization IV game but undergo heavy modification by Leoreth. The real Civilization IV is far from what you’re using to teach the school children. Please credit him for his hard work. You can check and visit the mod development at 🙂

    • teacheraleks says:


      We haven´t actually used any mods for our “directed play” lessons using this game. We are using the original Civilization 4 game with the Beyond the Sword Expansion pack. The image in this post is a screenshot from the making of one of my students´ screen videos. I was not aware that this was from a modmod, but I´ll credit the picture right away. I believe this mod is included as part of Beyond the Sword, but as I encouraged the class to make use of community-created mods for their screencasts, it may well have been downloaded from CivFanatics.


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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s