The other night, while my better half was on call, I fired up Civ III again for the first time in a while, and promptly lost an entire evening to it - she came home at 2a.m. to find me still glued to the screen, sweeping the Babylonians before me.
I'm sure for many people under 35, their golden age of gaming will have been around the age of 13. That's certainly true for me. I remember when I was younger than that, when we had first got a computer (an Apple Mac), our babysitter gave us Civ II, and then stayed up till 4a.m. (long after we were in bed) playing it. I was amazed that an adult might be so hedonistic! I played around with it but Civ III was the first one where I really delved deep into the game.
I know the Civ formula has been refined and expanded by subsequent editions, and redefined and reinterpreted by other games in the genre, but Civ III for me remains such a cohesive whole that it has really 'stood the test of time'. Despite its age, the art style is so consistent that I still think it looks great on newer machines, even though newer games have more bells and whistles. The rules and mechanics are maybe fewer and more simplistic than later versions, but they feel more manageable and understandable, to the extent it is more like learning the mechanics of a board game than of an entire economy. Of course that is probably because I've sunk so many hours into it that it is so familiar, but even so - if you change one parameter, you can usually predict and immediately see the response. And the civilopedia just feels much better integrated into the game and written than that of later versions; and it really is where most of my historical knowledge and interest has derived, leading onto many happy hours of wider reading and TV-viewing.
I've never been tech-savvy enough to make a mod for a game, but adding mods and fan-made scenarios to Civ III (on a Mac, no less) was my first and by far simplest experience of modding, and some of the ones over at civfanatics.com are incredible, adding countless more hours of playtime & incredible historical insight (the Rood & the Dragon and Age of Imperialism being my two favourite).
Anyway! I play few enough video games these days, limited both by time and tech (having my newer laptop stolen a few months ago, being forced back onto my old Macbook running Snow Leopard), it was such a child-like joy rediscovering Civ III, so I wanted to share it with you guys!
What about you all? Any older games that probably aren't on any 'best of all time' lists but which hold a special place for you, that you keep installing on new machines (or hold onto old machines to keep running)?