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The Function of Science in Civilization V
In which our intrepid author attempts to explain a video game vision of history
In the previous section, this paper discussed the central importance placed on population in the units of governing that make up Civilization V gameplay. This section goes more in depth on the ludological importance of population by discussing its connection to the science and development of a player's in-game civilization.
One of the most important and recognizable aspects of Civilization V as a game is its treatment of scientific and technological advancement. Alongside population growth, the development and practice of scientific research is of utmost importance in the gameplay of Civilization V. The game's progress is rooted in a teleological vision of scientific development, so that access to vital resources, buildings, and units requires the scientific research of new "Technologies." The research of new technologies is based on the production of "beakers," or science yields, which are themselves closely tied to population. The first major "Science Building," the term for an in-game building which increases/creates science yields, is the Library. The Library makes clear the direct connection between science and population, as it is solely dependent on a city's population for its effectiveness.
Moreover, the game's vision fo scientific development re-inscribes its impulse to re-create the contemporary world. The final (culminating) technologies a player can discover are things like "the Internet," "Globalization" or "Ecology." The possibility for imaginative, non-Western alternative developments are impossible within the confines of the game's teleological scientific system. Scientific success, human progress, is always towards a contemporary, state-based world, one which produces the technologies and machines of the modern world.
Social scientific research, another important facet of gameplay, functions similarly to scientific research. It is defined by a civilization's progression through a variety of "Social Policy" branches. These branches are accessed through the production of "culture," or cultural yields. Cultural yields are closely tied to the use of "Specialist" units in-game, citizens who work in the city, rather than on city tiles, so as to be more focused in their production. As such, social scientific Research in the game serves to further reveal the absolute importance of population in the gameplay of Civilization V.