Welcome To A World Without Oil
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WORLD WITHOUT OIL is a serious game for the public good. WWO invited people from all walks of life to contribute “collective imagination” to confront a real-world issue: the risk our unbridled thirst for oil poses to our economy, climate and quality of life. It’s a milestone in the quest to use games as democratic, collaborative platforms for exploring possible futures and sparking future-changing action. WWO set the model for using a hot net-native storytelling method (‘alternate reality’) to meet civic and educational goals. Best of all, it was compellingly fun.
WORLD WITHOUT OIL simulated the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis. It established a citizen “nerve center” at worldwithoutoil.org to track events and share solutions. Anybody could play by creating a personal story – an email or phone call, or for advanced users a blog post, video, photo, podcast, twitter, whatever – that chronicled the imagined reality of their life in the crisis. The WWO site links to all these stories. The game encouraged excellence with daily awards and recognition for authentic and intriguing stories.
When WWO concluded on June 1, 2007, its detailed vision of a possible future, expressed in 1,500 personal chronicles posted across the Web, had immersed 68,000 viewers (over 110,000 by year end).
No one today has a clear picture of oil availability or what will happen when demand inevitably outstrips supply. That will largely depend on how well people prepare, cooperate, and collectively create solutions, and before WWO, no one had ever thought to ask them what they might do.
By playing it out ‘for real’, WWO evoked collective intelligence and the wisdom of crowds in advance. Players worked together to gain grassroots insights into the forces that will rule at street level in a crisis. Their solutions – acts that mold communities, slash wasteful consumption and create more “elastic” lives – stand as vibrant antidotes to official paralysis.
WWO didn’t only “raise awareness” about oil dependence. By creating a simple nonpartisan framework that focused thousands of people from all walks of life upon this common issue, WWO sparked peer learning and inquiry-based exploration of the roots, outcomes, and prevention of an oil crisis. By “rousing our democratic imagination,” WWO fostered deep engagement and changed people’s lives. Via a game, players made themselves better citizens.
WWO’s greatest success may be: it was engrossingly, breathtakingly fun. More than immersive, it was meaningful and satisfying: “Usually games take away from real life,” player Ironmonkey wrote, “but WWO taught me a lot, lowered my electric bill, and focused me on doing things that matter to me.” WWO’s success on a small budget has opened the door for similar games that can engage mainstream Internet users with climate change, education reform, governmental policy and other timely, vital issues.
Oil has seeped into the very fabric of modern society, but there is not enough for everyone. Via a game, WWO makes this simple truth vividly real. This is why hundreds of people have written about it, thousands of sites worldwide in dozens of languages link to WWO, and Google lists 100,000 pages related to the game. It is the strong first step upon an entirely new and exciting terrain, one where we all play together to shape a better future.