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Chapter 15
God Games
G
   form of videogame in which the player has the
powers of an actual or metaphorical god, as well as some of the
limitations attributed to such entities by deist religions. The term itself
appears to have been coined by Bob Wade of ACE magazine to describe
Peter Molyneux’s seminal Populous (1989 Bullfrog Productions [BP]).
A god game will typically contain a simulation of a world, a nation,
or (more prosaically) a business, inhabited by mortals (or employ-
ees) conducting their own independent lives. The player is given spe-
cific powers—for example, the ability to cause divine earthquakes or
to increase salaries—with which they can manipulate the scenario,
and goals to achieve. In contrast to the similar 4X game form, the
players abilities will generally not include the power to order their
mortals to do whatever is necessary; instead, success must be achieved
indirectly, by influencing the behavior of the simulated population.
Another related form is that of the social simulation in which no goals
are specified, making it more of a toy than a game; these works are
considered in the section on toy games. Many members of the god
game school can also be categorized as “construction and management
simulations,” ageneric term used to denote games dealing with the
396 Science Fiction Video Games
simulation of business activities in the modern world. The god game
proper, however, has historically been dominated by works created by
developers associated with the UK designer Peter Molyneux, many of
which are fantasy.
Several early videogames could be regarded as precursors of the god
game form, including e Sumer Game (1968; 1973 revised as Hamurabi)
designed by Doug Dyment, a text-based simulation of life in ancient
Mesopotamia, and Utopia (1981 Mattel Electronics) designed by Don
Daglow, in which two players compete to build a better society on their
own island than their opponent can on theirs. Science-ctional descen-
dants of e Sumer Game include Lost Colony (1981 Acorn Soware)
designed by David Feitelberg, in which the player must ensure the sur-
vival of a newly abandoned extraterrestrial colony. e rst clear exam-
ple of the god game form, however, is Populous, in which the player is
a literal god, whose goal is to cause their worshippers to go forth and
multiply faster than those of their computer-controlled opponent. As is
conventional for games of this type, the player views events from a dis-
tant, elevated perspective. Other signicant examples include eme Park
(1994 BP) designed by Peter Molyneux and DemisHassabis, in which
participants must manage an amusement park; Dungeon Keeper (1997
BP) designed by Peter Molyneux, where the player is the Dark Lord of
a fantasy dungeon closely resembling those seen in early tabletop role-
playing games (RPGs); and Black & White (2001 Lionhead) designed by
Peter Molyneux. Black & White is one of the more impressive games in
the form to date; the player, inthe role of a god, must attempt to convert
ordinary villagers into worshippers, but can choose to be good, evil, or
somewhere in between. Arguably, however, the sequel—Black & White 2
(2005 Lionhead) designed by Peter Molyneux and Ronald Millar—oers
a more playable approach to the same concept. Among the rare science
ction (sf) examples are the UK-created Startopia (2001 Mucky Foot
Productions) and Evil Genius (2004 Elixir Studios) designed by Demis
Hassabis and Sandro Sammarco, as well as the less-well-received US game
Outpost (1994 Sierra On-Line) designed by Bruce Balfour, in which the
player must manage the colonization of a new world aer the destruction
of Earth. While god games are relatively uncommon, the form remains
commercially and artistically signicant, a point amply demonstrated
by both Will Wright’s recent Spore (2008 Maxis) and Molyneux’s own
upcoming Godus.

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