As a long time fan of the Civilization franchise, I have been closely following the development of Brave New World, the new expansion pack for Sid Meier's Civilization V. Like other fans I have been actively trying to guess which new civilizations will be added to the game (I hope they add Hungary!) and find out more details about every new feature the expansion pack includes. In the ramp up of hype building to the game's July 9th release date, Firaxis, the game's developer, has thrown many teases to the fans. Some of these have been through official gaming blogs and video game expos, but several have been through the official Civilization Facebook page. Revealing new civs, revealing a promotional poster and finally, last night, revealing the official cover art for Brave New World.
One of the game's new features is an expanded ideology system. Players can choose to follow the autocracy, freedom or order paths (corresponding with fascism, democracy and communism). The conflict between the three ideologies will define the modern era of the game, just has it has defined the last century. To highlight this feature the cover is split in three, with a panel highlighting each ideology. Autocracy (fascism) on the left, freedom (democracy) in the middle and order (communism) on the right.
Many comments on the Civ5 Facebook page thought the placement was a little odd. Shouldn't communism be put on the left and fascism on the right?
They have a point. But the answer, I think, might be that Firaxis is having a bit of fun with the cover and making a subtle statement. At the bottom of the box are three logos: the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) logo, which is on all games and provides an age rating for the game; the Firaxis logo; and the logo for the game's publisher, 2K Games. As I looked over the cover art the placement of these logos stood out to me, the ESRB logo is located in the autocracy panel, the Firaxis logo is located in the freedom panel, and the 2K Games logo is located in the order panel. It seems too convenient to be purely a coincidence.
With all the conflicts between game developers and game publishers, it wouldn't surprise me at all for the creative folks at Firaxis to be taking a shot at their 2K Games overlords by comparing them to order obsessed communists. The tie-in with ESRB ratings and autocracy fits as well. While the voluntary industry rating system is not government censorship (and a happy alternative to it), it is still seen asa barrier to free speech to many among game developers and youth rights advocates alike. And, of course, why wouldn't Firaxis put themselves under the freedom panel?
Looking over previous Civilization box titles, the ESRB logo is in the lower left corner (as it is with Brave New World), the 2K Games logo is in the lower right corner (as it is with Brave New World), but in the past the Firaxis logo has been placed right next to the 2K logo on the right, and instead with the Brave New World box it is right in the center. Right in the freedom section of the box.
Coincidence? I think not.
Reading through the comments of other fans on the Civ5 Facebook page it looks like I was the first to notice the connection. I said "Love the placement of the logos. ESRB is Autocracy, Firaxis is Freedom, and 2K is Order." I asked Brave New World developer Ed Beach to confirm whether the placement of the logos was intentional or not, but he hasn't responded to me.
He did, however, 'like' my comment.