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[[WMG: The national leaders in Civilization IV are either gods or SufficientlyAdvancedAliens]]
I know this sounds like it's coming from a crackhead, but bear with me:

Exhibit A: You (the player) get to specify what kind of world you will play on. This suggests (from a Watsonian point of view) that you either have the ability to teleport or travel extremely fast to a planet of your choosing, as planets are really far apart, or that you have the ability to ''create'' planets.

Exhibit B: Despite the game lasting thousands of years, the national leaders never seem to age or change in appearance in any way to suggest the passing of time. This implies some sort of immortality or advanced medical technology.

Exhibit C: In addition, national leaders cannot be killed or captured in war. What makes them so safe? Perhaps they are watching from a higher plane of existence, or are not on Earth at all.

Exhibit D: You can contact national leaders instantaneously and get face to face with them, even if you have barely invented the wheel. While such a phenomenon would be somewhat excusable late game due to better communication technology, perhaps you and the other national leaders have the divine powers or sufficiently advanced tech to do this all the time, suggesting you are a whole level above your civilization. If you were just a mortal, human leader, then why would you be free from your civilization's technology constraints?

Exhibit E: You get to choose what country you lead. This is similar to the idea of deities having chosen peoples, which is a part of several religions.

Exhibit F: How come it seems like you always have complete control of your civilization, even if that goes against all logic? You don't have to answer to your citizens even if your government type is explicitly democracy, and you have despotic control of what gets get build and what technologies are developed even if your economy type is a free market. The possible reason why is that your civilization acknowledges your divine wisdom or sufficiently advanced intellect, and will choose whatever you choose i.e. the voters in a democracy voting what your will is.

This also explains why the turns become shorter as the game goes on. The reason why a hundred years pass in one turn early in the game is that the world is simple, and people only need a few pointers every so often to guide their lives. Later on, the world becomes more complicated with more people, more connections, advanced technology, and richer cultures; your chosen people (see Exhibit E) need more pointers more often, hence why late game turns are only a year apart.

Exhibit G: The reason why you can't use your godly powers or sufficiently advanced technology to push your civilization to greatness is perhaps because this is a friendly competition between you and the other national leaders, with everyone god or sufficiently advanced alien competing by proxy rather than direct confrontation.

[[WMG: Civilization V is an experiment of some very technologically advanced civilization.]]
It all appears to be a kind of a social experiment. Famous leaders are resurrected and given immortality to lead the civilizations, and ancient ruins are found everywhere, perhaps remains of other, less fortunate experiments? Additionally, Nebuchadnezzar II seems to largely confirm this theory with what he is saying. He may occasionally say something among the lines of "These fools outside seem to think I am a god of some kind. It's unlikely." and, if you defeat him, he may say "Good work. I shall put in a good word to the demons for you" or "It is over. Perhaps now I shall have peace, at last." as if it's not the first time he's going through this. He may be indicate some outside observers with his sayings about the demons. He seems to be the only sane guy in the game that may know what is actually going on.
** Nebuchadnezzar probably isn't an example. His erratic behavior is a reference to the Biblical portrayal where he goes insane and lives in the wild for seven years.
** However, this does veer into FridgeBrilliance when you consider the game over text of Civilization 1.

[[WMG: Civilization V takes place AfterTheEnd]]
Think about it. The world is, from the start, dotted with ruins from ancient civilizations, which your units may scavenge for gold, works of art, maps of their surroundings, survivors or, more importantly, equipment. At the start, it isn't anything suspicious, just regular artifacts like bronze spears and bows. The horrifying consequences however come as you climb up the tech tree, and said "ancient ruins" now possess muskets, cannons, and, worse of all, tanks and assault helicopters. This clearly indicates that this "ancient civilization" whose ruins belong to possessed a high scientific and industrial level of development, only to suddenly disappear without notice.

My theory? All these ruins belonged to a single extremely powerful and advanced civilization which spanned the whole globe, which would explain why all of them possess the same architectural style and why they're found in such unlikely places as islands isolated in the middle of the ocean, or in the polar caps. At some point before the start of the game, however, something catastrophic happened to it, outright destroying most of its infrastructure and killing most of its population, wiping its cities off the face of the globe and leaving nothing but ruins dotted around the continents and a few pockets of civilization, which while retaining enough population and infrastructure to survive, turned into xenophobic city-states highly distrustful of each other, and bands of survivors driven mad by the shattering of the very world they inhabited, which turned into the barbarians.

The player and the AIs, on the other hand, are survivors which managed to gather enough materials to create their OWN cities, and start anew. The FridgeHorror, however, comes from the dawning realization: What catastrophe could be powerful enough to wipe out an unified, world-spanning culture with highly advanced technology, leaving nothing behind but little pockets of civilization, while leaving the environment intact? And worse... [[OhCrap What is keeping it from happening again?]]
** [[Franchise/MassEffect The Reapers]] did it.
** Alternatively, the world you play in is just the result after the previous great civilization gained a Science Victory.
*** Perhaps the civilizations starting out are the survivors from [[SidMeiersAlphaCentauri Alpha Centauri]] returning to recolonize Earth?
** Also worrisomely, the computer has a tendency to spawn ruins in close proximity to the Barringer Crater.

[[WMG: The leaders in-game are a front for [[Manga/AxisPowersHetalia their nations' personifications.]]]]
Given how all the games take place over thousands of years, it's ''highly'' unlikely that (even with video game time) the historical leaders available to you are actually immortal...that is unless they're not ''human.'' On top of that, you're given absolute control over just about everything in your civilization, and effectively serve as the only constant through the ages. And the only way you could "die" is if your nation is either conquered or nuked to oblivion. Of course, all that stuff is behind the scenes to cover up the whole thing. The leaders, really, are just for show in the diplomatic screens.
** Those That Came Before from Assassin's Creed II?
*** Perhaps the Nations are connected to them?
**** Maybe in a Hetalia~esque manner?
[[WMG: the leaders are in the Futures,]]
the leaders come from far futures, each of them comes from an alternate future were their civilization wins and eventually developed time travel they all came back to the same present possibly by some sort of contrived coincidence that caused the timelines to merge and now they must command their civilization to victory or their timeline will be destroyed what they don't know is that they aren't actually in their own timeline anymore they came back to an alternate timeline were the winner was victorious, and thus with you lose the entire universe/timeline is destroyed by paradox as you actually are from the future of this timeline
[[WMG: Attila's language]]
It's been pointed out by Churvash-speakers that there are several linguistic errors in Attila's dialogue in Gods and Kings. This is not because the voice actor wasn't fluent in Churvash, as is commonly thought, but because the language being spoken isn't supposed to be Churvash, but the original Hunnic. Since Hunnic hasn't been preserved to the modern day, the developers simply altered modern Churvash a bit to simulate it.
* My thought that was the language is Chuvash, but because the Huns were nomadic, it's been corrupted by a heavy accent and influence from the languages of the areas the Huns invaded, which included Eastern Europe. Hence why Attila speaks Chuvash with a slavic accent and weird grammar.
[[WMG: When a CPU civ wins - even when they get to Alpha Centauri when you have a fleet of tanks ready to flatten their last city, things just wouldn't have worked out in the end.]]
Maybe an earth-killing asteroid was headed your way, leaving the Alpha Centauri colony Earth's only hope. Maybe the cultural victory the weaker civ achieved caused your own citizenry to revolt against you. Maybe the guy elected to the United Nations was the {{Antichrist}} and even YOU will be swept away by his charm. Hey, stuff happens.
* [[VideoGame/SidMeiersAlphaCentauri There's precedent.]]
[[WMG: The leader of your civ is not immortal...]]
...you are just the entire succession of IdenticalGrandson, one after another.
[[WMG: Civ V is set in the afterlife.]]
People are reincarnated on a new planet in accordance with their ethnic identity, while their most famous cultural heroes are given immortality and charged with leading them to greatness. Whoever's wiped out is sent to yet another planet to start it all over again.

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