I’m not what you would call a gamer. Sure, I owned an Atari 2600 and spent countless hours playing Pole Position, Q*Bert, Pitfall, etc. I wasted most of my freshman year of college playing Nintendo until all hours. Madden and NHL 93-95 were staples on the Sega my roommates and I shared in the mid-90s. And I did own a Playstation for a few years, although when I put it in my sister-in-law’s yard sale last year, I didn’t remember playing about half the games I had purchased.

(20 years ago this week!)

Still, that’s a fairly limited history compared to some people. I have friends who have been sucked into the various on-line role playing games and spend hours on one quest or another. I like to laugh at them and tell them they should get a life.

I do have a dirty secret, though. I was once addicted to a computer game. And I’ve recently discovered an iPhone version that has me on a nasty gaming bender.

Back in the summer of ‘96 I picked up Sid Meier’s Civilization II, a turn-based game in which you attempt to build a civilization and defeat other developing nations through force, economic power, or by building a spaceship and getting to Alpha Centauri first. I didn’t have a lot going on in my life at the time – I had just, finally finished college and was using my poli sci degree working the second shift at a distribution warehouse – so I was a prime candidate to get sucked in.

I normally got home between 10:30 PM and 12:30 AM, depending on if we worked overtime or not. I would wash up, grab a snack, and sit down in front of the computer, telling myself I would only play for 30-40 minutes or so. There were far too many times that I finally turned the computer off and collapsed into bed as the sun was coming up. One especially bad night I got home, played all night, then went back into work for a four-hour morning shift. Given that I operated some large power equipment at work, it probably wasn’t the safest thing in the world for me to stay awake for 30 straight hours and then start driving forklifts around.

My sickness reached the point where I owned multiple books on how to “beat” Civ II, an expansion disk that added all kinds of cool* options, and would read various forums looking for ways to improve my play.

(Cool being a subjective term.)

Fortunately, after about two months of this, I burned out and packed the books and disks away. Periodically I’ll consider picking up the latest version of Civ, but I’ve always resisted temptation, knowing I can’t stay awake all night playing computer games anymore and would rather read a book anyway.

Then I found the iPhone version a couple weeks back, Civilization Revolution. I’m totally hooked. When the girls are driving me crazy, I fire it up for “15 minutes or so,” which quickly becomes a 30-minute session. The game is true to the original version (and current, I imagine), although it is a bit simplified to make game play faster and easier. I never, ever won a game in Civ II. I’ve won with four different civilizations in four different ways over the past week.* It’s kind of like crack; I can’t stop playing. I even completely drained the battery on my phone one day.

(You select one of several civilizations when you begin a game, and take on the persona of that civ’s leader. For example, if you select the Americans, you’re Abe Lincoln; the Russians, Catherine the Great; the British, Winston Churchill; etc. I’ll admit it felt a little extra good when, while playing as the Indians, I developed atomic weapons and dropped a bomb on an opponent’s capital. That’s right, I had Gandhi drop a nuke!)

I’m sure this will all pass. But I’ve already played Civ Rev more than all the other games I’ve bought from the App Store combined. It’s worth every one of the 499 pennies I spent on it.