Civilization VI: Gathering Storm


Climate change has come to the granddaddy of world-domination computer games in Gathering Storm, the latest expansion for Sid Meier's Civilization VI.

The good news is that the expansion's emphasis on the environment is not crafted with an eye toward lecturing or berating the players for having the nerve to grow, expand, and succeed as nations. The series has always had a strong emphasis on not just world conquest but also scientific progress, and that's how the game approaches global warming.

Players will, as they always have, build their way up through the industrial era, developing coal and oil as energy sources. In Gathering Storm, this results in the slow melting of the polar ice caps that can eventually result in parts of the coast flooding, destroying any developments in those areas. But it's not a hopeless scenario: By pushing scientific research, players can develop technologies to reduce their carbon emissions and protect the coastlines. (Unlike real-world politicians' Green New Deal, Gathering Storm grasps the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change.)

Even if players aren't able to completely stop the warming, the world doesn't come to an end. Players research tools that allow people to adapt, including speculative innovations such as seasteading. Work hard enough, and you can build offshore communities that grow and thrive.

Less successful is the game's introduction of "corporate libertarianism." While the description of this government type notes that its purpose is to maximize individual liberty and to use peaceful private contracts rather than state coercion, its implementation in the game has an odd emphasis on boosting your military. Worst of all, selecting this form of government incurs a penalty on scientific research, as though innovation can't happen without government control.