Jessie sent me this link to a browser game called Ikariam, wherein you take charge of an ancient Greek town and (very) gradually build it into an empire, Civilization-style. It’s still in the beta stage, but I’ve been playing it literally non-stop for the past four days, and when I say literally, I mean that one primary feature of the game is that it proceeds in real time, so that you never technically stop playing unless you deactivate your account. Researching something like “wine press” or “expansion” takes up to two days, but the research continues even if you leave your computer (which, thankfully, I do occasionally). Sending supply ships to other cities in your empire also takes minutes or even hours, depending on how far away they are. I have yet to engage in warfare in the game, but apparently it functions the same way. This seems to be a new genre of sorts, one that is hard to define. It’s a strategy game that takes place in real time, but it’s not an “RTS” (real-time strategy) in the sense that we have come to define the term.

Oh, and your economic and military competitors are other players with accounts in the game. You can “engage in diplomacy” (i.e. communicate) with them via the game’s messaging system to request certain types of goods, declare war, or just chat. The rhetoric of the game seems to emphasize commerce and trade so far, but I’m waiting for that to change as soon as I progress further. The fact that Ikariam is a browser game seems to encourage casual play.