Sid Meier’s Memoir! A Life in Computer Games is a collection of anecdotes from his life, his gameography, and his philosophies. In his games, he sought to put good into the world, and he has done the same with this book. He acknowledges that bad things have happened in his life, but he doesn’t dwell on them.
I’ve previously written about some of the games Sid had a hand in creating, including a few that had his name on the box: Sid Meier’s Civilization, Sid Meier’s Colonization, and even Magic The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers. They all had an impact on me or at least how I spent a lot of my time when they entered my life.
Because of the space it took up both on my calendars and my hard drives, I was interested in the thoughts of this man I’d never met. There were certainly other games, such as Duke Nukem 3D and Quake to name two around that time, which I also wrote about. There’s also a very good book about the id Software guys called Masters of Doom which I reviewed years ago. The point I’m trying to make is that I want to know more about the creators whose products I still continue to spend time with to this day.
The thing that sets this book apart in many ways is that you can tell it’s not the whole story, but he’s actively choosing to tell you the positive side of history. This isn’t a smashing tell-all, “you won’t believe what Sid says about this on page 101” kind of a biography.
This is a lighthearted, inspirational story with Sid as the lead character. It also reads like a game with “Achievement Unlocked” appearing at the bottom of pages every so often. My favorite achievements include:
A Journey of 1,000 Miles–Read one page.
My Country ‘Tis of–Read the word “the” 1,000 times.
Life Is Short–Finish a chapter in less than one page.
Midlife Crisis–Whoa, we’re halfway there.
Too Long for a Tweet–Read 240,000 characters.
Be Excellent to Each Other–Encounter Beethoven, Lincoln, Napoleon, and Genghis Khan.
This Belongs in a Museum–Go on a raid with Indiana Jones, George Lucas, John Williams, and Steven Spielberg.
Expected Territory–Read the word “civilization” 125 times.
Share the Credit–Identify thirty-six other developers by name.
Completionist!–Read the Special Thanks section.
Achievements in this regard are passive but still fun.
Since I want to make sure you know what this book is, I’ll start with a quote from Sid. “I’ve always felt that our role as game designers is to suspend reality, not examine the pain of real moral dilemmas.”
Perhaps this is why Sid only passingly mentions that there were adversities in his life. Sid’s not trying to write a memoir that is telling the whole story; he’s telling his story that, much like his games, remains positive and fun. History is rarely as simple as one story, and it’s almost never complete if it’s one life contained in a book of less than 300 pages. Even 900 would be pretty short even for an average person, but adding pages doesn’t automatically make for a great story.
Those who’ve played his games know that Sid can create a narrative. He can craft a story. Perhaps that’s why I blazed through this Memoir! in less time than it takes to play the average game of Civilization.
Perhaps, if you’re a fan, that’s why you’ll progress through it, too. Enjoy the achievements along the way.