Evolving 4X Terminology

It’s a core belief of mine that language is important — after all, if you and a listener don’t have a common language of some kind, you can’t communicate — so as I’ve been rebuilding Galactic Impact, I keep being struck by the word “Colony” everywhere in this type of game (Sending Colonists to another world… to Colonize that world when they arrive…).

Without doubt, the term is common parlance when we talk about setting up permanent human habitation on worlds in outer space, “a Moon colony”, “a Mars colony”, and beyond. In fact, NASA has entire articles about it. But in reality it’s a term rooted in a really horrific period of human history. It doesn’t often get this framing in History classes in the U.S., but Colonialism was a seriously fucked up era when entitled European empires showed up on foreign shores to kill, loot, and occupy as they saw fit. These actions redrew the map and world affairs in ways that are still visible four hundred years later, and lots of people around the world are still experiencing the negative downstream effects.

Since my main objective is fo Galactic Impact to be a fun game for the most number of people I can hope to entertain, I don’t want to be using language that calls back to that history. And just maybe, by making an intentional change, others may reconsider language in the entire 4X genre, or at least think twice about it.

To help me out with finding suitable replacements, I reached out to an internet buddy of mine, Calvin Wong Tze Loon (@ithayla on Twitter), who I know cares deeply about these issues, and is an English Language Nerd to rival my own. After some back and forth, he suggested that Outpost could be a suitable alternative. Which I think is a super cool option. It also sparked the term “Outworld” which could be a rad way to describe both smaller Outposts and larger, more highly populous Capitals or similar.

Does making this change in this game really cause a dent in the overall course of the universe? Probably not. But I really don’t see how it can hurt to remove the language of oppression from our entertainment spaces.

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