Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I Learned From Sid Meier's Civilization

One of my favorite Christmas presents as a boy was the computer game, Civilization. It's a turn based strategy game that lets you pretend to be the supreme ruler of a world civilization for 6000 years of its development (talk about a narcissistic head trip). I've wasted hours with that game and its subsequent iterations, but I did learn one important lesson from it:

If you plan to win today, you will loose tomorrow.

When most novice players begin a game of Civilization they immediately focus on building military units to take out their nearest neighbor. And when they succeed, at great military and economic cost; they find they've opened Pandora's box, because the neighbor of their neighbor has been spending money on technology, has more advanced units, and is not happy with whoever took out their ally. So next time the defeated player, having learned the wrong lesson, focuses on technology to the detriment of their military, and is quickly defeated by a militaristic neighbor who has built hordes of less advanced units.

Success in Civilization depends on patience, taking the long view, and a willingness to be less successful today in order position yourself to be more successful in the future. The mistake that novice players make is perceiving themselves as the only change agent in the game world. They believe that the word stands still as they make and execute their plans, that the world will not respond proactively to what they do, and their their actions will only cause the effects they intended.

In my observation, the church often acts in the world like a novice Civilization player. It found something that worked yesterday, rushes to get thousands of converts with it; wonders what went wrong, and then tries the exact opposite; all the while paying little heed to its changing environment and the long view of things. This is especially disturbing to me in light of the fact that the church claims to know from prophecy what the end will look like, because the best Civilization players have the end in mind from the beginning.

I don't know what to do about this, but here's are a couple of scriptures that might point us in the right direction.
From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the temper of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (1 Chronicles 12:32, NLT)
So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. (Luke 16:8, NKJV)

1 comment:

  1. It occurs to me that another analogy between a novice Civ player and the church could go like this:

    Church/player sees something that should have been done ten years ago/last turn and does it this year/turn. Only the world/game world has changed, and the results are different than those that were intended.