Stuck in the Colonial Age

It felt like a bat of an eye and I’ve found myself in the Colonial Age in Forge of Empires. I’ve been playing this game and been planning on posting about it for ages now, and by ages I mean ages – ever since the Spring Event in 2020, which was in April. I wanted to post about it because the event was truly adorable, hanami-themed (花見), with cherry blossoms everywhere. It was my first Forge of Empires event, and since I’ve taken part in several (though none in the summer, because I took a break from playing). The current one is Forge Bowl (a FoE version of Superbowl), it goes without saying that it’s nowhere near the adorableness of hanami, though I can see how it must be appealing to the young- and old-male part of the game demographic, which is certainly the majority.

Anyway, I was very excited about entering the Colonial Age – it was somehow meaningful, because my country’s history has no memory of colonialism (at least not of colonising places) – rather, a memory of subjugation and erasure. Therefore, as much as the Iron Age and Early to Late Middle Ages felt somewhat believable, the Colonial Age feels like science fiction to me. I invested my Forge Points into researching technologies such as porcelain, muskets, industrial goods (allowing me to build a tar kiln and wire mill), gambrel roof and arcade houses, and clockmaking.

However, in the Colonial Age I’ve also researched colonies, new crops, plantations and plantation goods (in the game, it’s paper and coffee), exploration, fashion, imperialism (unlocked by researching trading charters), and the Malthusian Theory. I’m really on top of it.

One thing I’d love to see in Forge of Empires is some sort of narration when you place your cursor on a specific technology. As it is, the pop-up window will show you the resources required for researching the technology (typically some money, some building resources, and some goods, though the latter does not always seem relevant to the technology) and the rewards from researching it (e.g. researching Plantation Goods allows me to build a Coffee Roaster and Paper Mill). I’m aware that a paragraph for each technology would turn this game into a highly interactive history textbook. Though, education is required to be critical, and we could do with some more critical people at the moment. (And always, really).

Before I noticed, I had finished the last two technologies required before moving onto the Industrial Age. But I don’t want to enter the Industrial Age just yet. I’ve got plenty and enough of industry; I want to revel in being a Colonial Power just for a little while. Also because I’m not finished with my Aztec Cultural Settlement yet, and shouldn’t I kill off the Aztecs before I start the Industrial Revolution?

I think Forge of Empires is really great. After leaving school I didn’t have too great of an idea of the human technology progress timeline; this game gave me an idea of it, and let me reflect on how we present human history and what narratives are excluded from straightforward representations such as this one. Imagine that a FoE-style game which starts and follows a place in Mesoamerica would take quite a different shape. Although I wonder whether the base format would remain the same – researching new technologies, acquiring “expansions”, attacking others’ settlements and motivating their buildings for money? For now, I think that it would. If you think otherwise, let me know.

I just read this amazing paper by Anna Tsing on mushrooms and plantation crops. It really opened my eyes (although some of it rang familiar with the Economic and Political Geography course I took in 2nd year of uni). Now, I’m waiting for the lecture on the transatlantic ship.

Published by kotersey

Graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a First in geography, and from the University of Brighton with a Master's in history of design and material culture. Probably drinking iced coffee and thinking about buildings.

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