On Campus

Ancient Egypt is worthy of my spare time

No more Seinfeld rerun trances for me. Pyramids all the way!

It’s part of the collateral damage of university: with labs, assignments and term tests to worry about, spare time is suddenly a scarce resource.

I still sometimes play Halo 3 with my friends on weekends. And I’m still able to read Scott Feschuk. But unlike back in high school, I need to plan my spare time now. I have to spend it efficiently. Which means I can’t fall into a trance watching reruns of Seinfeld.

There should be a way to siphon spare time from people who aren’t using it properly. That half-hour my brother spends watching SpongeBob Squarepants? That’s a half hour I could spend playing Gears of War.

My sister recently told me about an internet-based game called Nile Online that she was playing. She explained how it’s set in ancient Egypt, and players take on the role of a Pharaoh. The point of the game is to build an empire of cities, each of which have a resource-like leather, oil, or gold. But upgrading your palace requires a variety of resources, so players have to trade with one another to get what they don’t have.

“Can you attack other people’s cities?” I asked.


“Do you ever have to fight off an invasion of crispy, mummified zombies?”


Jenny explained how the game’s main focus isn’t combat. It’s based on “economics” and “resource building.” Right. In other words, this game was created for those six people worldwide who like getting a jigsaw puzzle in their Kinder Egg.

Normally I’d rather watch an 18-hour Pokemon movie marathon than play a game based on “economics.” But I made an account on the game, without letting my sister know, just to freak her out. I figured I would start a city, make a couple of trades with her, and then let her know it was me all along. Sort of like when you crouch behind a dark doorway, and then as your brother walks by, you jump out and scare the crap out of them.

It was right about when I finished building my first pyramid that I suddenly realized I was hooked. Nile Online is worthy of my limited spare time.

The perfect thing about Nile Online is that you can multi-task. Everything happens in real time: I order my laborers to build a basket shop, which takes 45 minutes to complete. After studying physics for a bit, construction is complete. I order my laborers to renovate my palace, which takes over 10 hours. I go to sleep, and when I wake up, the renovation is finished. Meanwhile, I’ve got laborers working in my tannery, producing 32 sandals an hour. By the time I get home from school, I have over 200 sandals to trade. I put a sell order on the market, for nine bread per sandal, and the next morning I have over 1800 bread in my capital city. I use it to buy some cedar, build some ships, and then CUPE shows up and suddenly everybody’s demanding a contract.

Unlike other computer games, like Runescape- where some little grade-seven bastard could sneak up behind me and stab me in the back of the neck, and then take all my gold- everyone else who plays Nile Online is honest. When I ship 200 sandals to some other guy’s city, I can trust that he’ll send me back 200 sculpture. When someone tells me that they’ll send my jewelry as soon as their ship returns, I can trust that they’re telling the truth.

Nile Online has restored my faith in humanity. It reminded me that even if a deadly plague wiped out three quarters of the world population, there would still be a chance for peace and order. For every anarchist, there’s a Nile Online player. Someone who understands the organizational beauty of thousands of cities co-existing, trading resources with one another to help support the whole community.

It’s free to play, and nothing has to be downloaded. After signing up for a free account, all you have to do is give yourself a pharaoh name, and found your first city. It’s a simple game (it doesn’t even require any hand-eye coordination), but there’s a short guide you can read, which explains how to get your empire up and running.

And if you need any leather or sculpture, just send a scroll to Irish Monkey, Overseer of Leprechaun-opolis.

– photo courtesy of Ricardo Liberato

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