One night in the mid-1990s I tried out a computer game called “Civilization.” You started with a screen that was completely black, except for one square of land. As you pushed outward from this base, you’d make discoveries about the land around you and its inhabitants. You’d start to build a society, first primitive stuff like granaries, then advancing to roads and weapons.
Trade-offs would arise: Should I build a library or a cannon? As your world advanced, you’d run into other civilizations. It was disconcerting to discover somebody else had a battleship while you were working with catapults. As I was journeyed through all of these fascinating challenges, I discovered to my surprise that the sun had come up. Something had gone haywire with time. It was already 7 a.m.
If you had asked me at any point in my relationship to “Civilization” whether I was happy, I would have said no. I was ecstatic. I was euphoric. Making simulated granaries. Building simulated roads. Firing simulated cannon. These were my obsessions.
After a while I realized that becoming master of a fake world was not worth the dozens of hours a month it was costing me, and with profound regret I stashed my floppy disk of “Civilization” in a box and pushed it deep into my closet. I hope I never get addicted to anything like “Civilization” again.