The semester is drawing to a close at University and the workload is beginning to ease off. As a result, I finally have time to sit down and just play games again. Although, over the weekend I found myself playing Civilization V at 4.30 am. Whilst it’s ok to have the odd gaming binge here and there, it got me thinking about what it was about Civilization that could keep me playing it for quite so long despite my ability to remain awake slowly depleting.
The Civilization series is widely renowned for its ability to keep people playing for ‘one more turn’ but it is by no means the only game that can easily turn a quick gaming session into an all nighter. In my experience, turn based games are much more effective at doing this. What gives these games an edge is that a turn is not a standardised measurement of time so it can be harder to keep track of time than in say, Skyrim, where it’s fairly simple to say “alright, it’s 11 o’clock now, I’ll play for another half an hour then leave it.’ But with a turn based game you might say to yourself that you’ll play one more turn find that you didn’t really have an awful lot to do in that turn and insist that it didn’t count as a complete turn.
Another thing that gives Civilization an edge is its complexity. If a player were to set themselves the goal of taking over a city they might have a rough idea of how many turns it would take, but the sheer amount of ways in which their plan could change or go wrong can vastly change how long it will take. More often than not, some new goal will present itself while achieving the present goal. For example, you might just be about to take over a new city, at which point an enemy civ suddenly declares war on you and takes one of your cities. Of course, you can’t allow such a transgression to go unpunished and taking that city back suddenly becomes very important.
I’ve talked about Civilization a lot because I think it’s the epitome of the ‘one more turn’ phenomenon, but it’s by no means the only game to have that effect. The Total War games have kept me up way past my bed time on more than one occasion (the same can be said for my Dad!). Creative Assembly are a bit more forgiving than Firaxis in the respect that battles are fought out in real time so they break up the turn based campaign a bit more, especially when you’re unwilling to lose your biggest army because you’re tired and not thinking straight.
Ultimately good gameplay and a gripping narrative will keep a player playing (whether that narrative is predetermined or simply set up to be possible by the developer). There’s nothing wrong with an all night binge here and there, but it can become problematic if you do it too often! If you’ve had any particularly bad onsets of ‘one more turn’ syndrome please leave a comment!