I would have been a horrible Pharaoh

Pharaoh Egypt Sims video game ancient civilizations

Be a tyrant from the comfort of your own living room

“A Virtual Failure as Pharaoh”
By Darren Garnick

Originally Published: The Jerusalem Report, April 2001
I would’ve made a terrible Pharaoh, perhaps even the worst Pharaoh ever.

Moses would’ve worn me down after the first “Let My People Go!”

Hailstones, bloody rivers and voracious grasshoppers would not have been

I know this after my brief stint on the Egyptian throne in “Pharaoh,” a new role-playing computer game that lets you build the pyramids to your own specifications. Part of the Great Empires Collection by Sierra Studios – other volumes let you recreate Ancient Rome (“Caesar III”) and Ancient Greece (“Zeus”) – the game makes the assumption that urban planning is an enjoyable experience. Are homes along the Nile protected with adequate drainage ditches? What kinds of commercial development should be permissible near the Sphinx? Is Alexandria’s tax rate sufficient to build new schools?

All of this tantalizing minutia was left out of the Passover story. But it’s now available in the “Pharaoh” user’s guide, a volume about three times as thick as my Maxwell House Haggadah, which players must consult constantly for tips on keeping the Egyptian public happy. The game shares this much with the Passover seder: It goes on for hours with lots of redundant reading. For those with the patience, “Pharaoh” can span a time frame of 5,000 years – more than 10 times the amount of time the Hebrews spent schlepping rocks.

“Build A Kingdom. Rule The Nile. Live Forever.” The game’s slogan makes the Pharaohs sound like cool dudes. The term “slavery” is never mentioned, making ancient Egypt appear to be a place where labor unions thrived. One of the first stages of pyramid building requires contacting the “carpenters, bricklayers and stonemasons’ guilds,” leaving the “peasants” to deliver raw materials. Because peasants are included in the government’s unemployment figures, it appears as if they are paid for their work.

I didn’t have to worry about pay raises, though. A large percentage of employees died from malaria, a disease delighted by my failure to build medical clinics. As Pharaoh, I was also incompetent in agriculture, not producing enough grain to feed the masses – or enough straw to make the bricks. I was oblivious to it all, hearing only whispers of adulation from my sycophant advisors: “People love you… People idolize you as a god.”

To avoid controversy, the video game designers conveniently don’t identify the ethnicity of those who would have been building my cities (if there were any bricks). Although the Israelites were likely not the only people enslaved by Egypt, they were the only ones to have a movie made about them. That standard carries no weight here – there’s not a single reference to the Hebrews, the Israelites or the Jews. Though this game has no overt political leanings, it is interesting to note that the Libyans and Syrians get plenty of face time.

My major accomplishment as Pharaoh was building a dance school and a jugglers’ school, both of which emerged unscathed after enemy troops torched my capital city. Needless to say, the local deities were not pleased with my overall performance. Seth, the god of destruction; Prah, the god of craftsmen; and Bast, the goddess of the home, all put me on their hit lists.

According to a papyrus memo dated October 1834 BC, I was deemed the worst Pharaoh ever:

“O bitter day! Your ignoble end should’ve been unthinkable. Your failure stains the names of descendants yet unborn. You might have joined the elite who achieved immortality in the Field of Reeds. Instead, you will pass unlamented into shadow.”

Too bad that a bumbling guy like me wasn’t really running the show.


** Why I would have been a horrible Pharaoh !

** Schlock Flashback: Steven Spielberg’s Country Music Moses

** The Joys of Plastic Lice: Passover toys celebrate Ancient Egypt’s regime change

** Schlock Flashback: Origins of the Moses Duck

** Let My Tastebuds Go: I dare you to try Passover breakfast cereal!

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