Oh, man. I’m trying to remember the name of the play-by-mail empire building game I played . . . ah, got it. “Star Master.”
You designed your own species, picked a world and government. On paper, really cool. Played that for three or more years. Spent hundreds of dollars. Wrote stories for the newsletter, met people at conventions. Gloriously goofy space-fantasy, owing a lot to Doc Smith and other golden age space opera works.
I was a builder. Colonize, trade, come up with ideas to improve the empire. Eventually got sick on the money-drain, and the fact that my imagination was way beyond what was possible with the game. Which was a pretty shabby hand-run design.
I played Master of Orion II devotedly for a while. Again, not much of a conqueror. More a technological hegemonist.
It got bored with it (and Galactic Civilization II) when things started to end up the same way; an empire of perfectly terraformed worlds with all the improvements and no real opposition.
Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker came out in 1937, when Galactic Patrol began serialization.
The empire-builders in that sort-of-novel were called the Perverts. Wellsian group-mind utopias that went wrong; instead of observing and maybe providing clandestine help to lesser developed worlds*, they forced their particular ideals and utopian solution on others. Used nova bombs to deal with an alliance of enlightened races who sought to limit the damage.
Star Maker and Last and First Men are dated in their own way, but they manage to get more of the science right than than E.E. “Doc” Smith.
*The really advanced races had something very much like a Prime Directive.