My love letter to global warfare: an Internet subculture that’s Inuit to winuit

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The Official /r/Civ 60+ Civ Battle Royale lead image.

Credit: TPangolin

Texas is at war with Canada and Mexico. The Nazis just converted to Judaism. And a little while ago, Steve Jobs conquered the city of Chichen Itza — which was a huge blow to the Mayans.

That’s just some of the news about the war raging between 61 different civilizations — in Civilization Battle Royale, Mark 2.

Let me explain.

Earlier this year, Reddit user TPangolin — a fan of the game Civilization — decided to create a massive game that pitted 42 virtual (and completely computer-controlled) empires against each other. Here's a primer in case you've never played the game before: Essentially, the goal is to rule the world, either by successfully launching a spaceship, engineering a utopian society or winning enough votes in the United Nations. Or by destroying everyone else. In TPangolin's game, the rules are customized so that the only way to win is to dominate all other civilizations.

In a typical game, you might play against six, maybe seven other civilizations. That first game, with 42 civilizations, was gigantic, but it didn't last too long. The computers duked it out for a little over 300 turns. Then, because of the sheer size of the game and a host of other bugs, the game crashed.

But Battle Royale is back, this time with 61 civilizations. And I can't get enough of it.

I'll admit, this is a strange hobby. It's not really gaming, because the computer is the one playing the actual game. It's more like reading the newspaper from a sarcastic country that doesn’t exist. And then scrolling through the comments.

TPangolin compiles key information about the battle in detailed photo galleries, but all the commentary, Battle Royale-themed rap battles and even a full stock market are all on the game's 7,100-user strong subreddit.A map of how the game has gone so far. Credit: kittke

Battle Royale is a playground for nerds like me who like learning facts about things I'll never be asked about. For instance, I hadn’t even heard of the Khanate of Sibir before I began following the game. I knew nothing about the aboriginal people of Kimberley. It's also great if — like me — you love trash talk.

But there's also a much more abstract reason to love Battle Royale. I spoke to Chris Powell, another fan, about that exact feeling.

"I'm a huge fan of world-building," he says. "When I write about stuff it's always fantastical and out there. I love people like Terry Pratchett and Tolkien, and this is basically like that. People are really making this world. I mean, Hitler is Jewish and the Russians actually aren't very good at conquering people."

That's really what keeps me coming back.

While the maps in the game tell the bare bones of the story, and provide a pretty nifty way to visualize strategy, the fans are tirelessly creating a mythology to go along with it. In fact, Powell was part of that mythology. Along with the twice-weekly maps, TPangolin wrangles a fan to provide an explanation for what exactly is going on. Powell took the reigns during round 11, explaining faux global politics in a way that I wish Wolf Blitzer could.

"Initially a fan/bookie favourite, numerous incursions from the surrounding nations have left the real life world power struggling for relevancy," Powell wrote, referring to China. "The dire straits that they find themselves in have become ever more prevalent in Chinese popular culture. The new hit musical “The Sound of Warfare,” has sold remarkably well, and some of the more popular tracks it contains, like “Oh God, The Hills Are On Fire”, and “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea?” have remained at the top of the charts for a depressingly long time."

And that commentary is only one small part of the huge amount of Battle Royale-themed original work. I mean, we even have newspapers.

The game also has another a tie to the real world: money. If conquered, all of the money donated up to that point by fans will go to a related charity. For instance, if Byzantium is knocked out (which is looking more and more likely. They’re in third-to-last place after the last round), all of the money donated will go to the International Women of Istanbul.

At the same time, China should really be figuring out where exactly it wants its money to go. It's hanging on by a thread.

But my team's not.

Instead, sitting comfortably at second in the rankings, we're Inuit to winuit. Take that, real-life historical accuracy.

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