Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (which we fondly refer to here as SMAC, both as an acronym and in reference to its potent addictive properties) opens in an odd way for a science fiction game. Most such games open with spaceships, star travel, or some futuristic technology. They seek to hook the imagination. But our game begins much more humbly.
SMAC begins with a largely static image of the stars as a woman reads a passage from the book of Genesis, telling the story of man’s final and irrevocable expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The reading goes on for about twenty seconds, which is long enough for the lack of action to be quite noticeable. The effect is that we, the players, are being invited to join the woman in literary contemplation. This, in and of itself, is a strange thing to find in a game – and a strategy game, no less!
The attentive viewer will notice that as the woman ends her quotation, she cites her source as “The Conclave Bible, Datalinks”. Odd … one would normally expect chapter and verse from a bible quote. What are the Datalinks? And which edition is the Conclave Bible?
There isn’t much time to dwell on those questions, though. As the woman finishes, the music strikes up and we are treated to a series of disjointed images from the Earth we know. The context isn’t clear, but the message certainly is. These are scenes of chaos: fire; military equipment; rioting crowds; nuclear explosions; escalating debt – each one flashes by just after it has time to register. The world is out of control. It’s literally on fire. And it’s hurtling toward calamity…