You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2008.
Cherie Davis’ article about World Without Oil in the Turlock Journal brings up a point to ponder: the particular vulnerability of exurbs such as Turlock to an oil shortage. Turlock’s recent growth is largely due to people fleeing the housing pressure cooker of the San Francisco Bay Area, and an awful lot of people in Turlock need to get to someplace else pretty far away on a regular basis, and do so by putting fuel in their cars. What happens when the fuel becomes unaffordable or simply unavailable?
Here in Phoenix, I’m waiting for 8 pm to roll around, so I can power down. It’s Earth Hour, time to turn down the energy consumption, if just for an hour. This is a great idea, very playful, and people are getting into the spirit by getting the candles ready, camping out in the back yard, and so on. And the lesson is right out of WWO: c’mon, there’s life with less energy, and we can make it a good life if we act rather than react. OK, that’s enough – it’s so cool I’m powering down ten minutes early. See you in the dark!
I’m in Phoenix, looking for WWO-worthy headlines in the Arizona Republic, and finding them. Front page box item: “Gas prices continue to top records.” The box blurb mentions an Iraqi pipeline bombing and cutbacks by refiners as causes for the inexorable march of gas prices, but of course that’s hogwash (the pipeline will be fixed in the next day or so, and the cutback by refiners is due to shrinking gasoline demand in U.S. local markets). The article itself (top story, Business section) barely mentions the true cause: oil prices still over $105 a barrel. They spend a whole paragraph talking about the refinery cutback, terming it “troubling,” but why? Refineries cut back when local demand lessens, nothing sinister about it. World demand isn’t decreasing, not if China has anything to say about it, and as long as that’s true the fundamental price of oil will stay high.
The rest of the article is quotes from drivers, and it’s all pure WWO: “Gas prices have really impacted our budget.” “We might not be able to take a vacation this year.” “I’m taking the bus and riding my bike more.” “I used to go back to Chinle, my hometown, every two weeks – now with higher gas prices, I only go up once a month.” Is this not a game?
Cool beans. The Stockholm Challenge has selected World Without Oil as a finalist in its 2008 program, in the “Environment” category (subcategory: Energy and alternative technologies). The Stockholm Challenge is all about using Information Communications Technology (ICT) to help counteract social and economic disadvantage. If you look at the finalist list (and you should) you’ll see two main areas: groups that are extending known technologies into underdeveloped regions (often in innovative ways) and groups that are coming up with new technologies or approaches for serving the public good (WWO is in this second area). Here’s the WWO brief at the Stockholm Challenge.
I find three other game approaches among the finalists, both in the Health category: Freedom HIV/AIDS,which uses mobile games to raise awareness in India, and Reach Out Central (Australia) and SmartUs – Games in Motion (Finland), both aimed at health awareness. This is a good showing for serious games, folks, showing their rise globally. I look forward to meeting all the finalists in Stockholm during Challenge Week, May 19-22. The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) does select winners in each of its six categories, but it seems the real prize is to meet and share ideas and aquavit with some really innovative and dedicated people from all over the world.
Or almost complete, anyway – finishing touches this week. Teachers, have at it! Your comments welcome.
From WWO fan Laurel K.: an interactive tool to graphically display the relationships among candidates and oil interests. The 2008 campaign is of course relevant, but if you want to acquire a deep understanding of why we are in this handbasket and where its trajectory came from, select the 2000 and 2004 elections and click “Find The Oil Money!” (thanks Laurel!)
Revealing AP article today by John Wilen, highlighting the trouble that US consumers find themselves in today: gas prices are going up, no matter what. And increasing fuel costs mean that the price of everything goes up, no matter what. Under price pressure from all sides, US consumers are “combining errands, sharing rides, eliminating pleasure trips and using public transit more” in an effort to control the cost of fuel on their budgets. But what’s not happening is any decrease in fuel prices commensurate with the decline in fuel usage. Gas usage is off by 1% in the past 8 weeks, instead of its usual 1.5% growth (to keep up with population growth). But gas prices have only retreated by a few cents in recent days. The result: a father in Pleasanton, CA, is considering cutting swim lessons for his kids. Which may not seem like much, unless you’ve played World Without Oil and recognize that this is how it all begins.
Not discussed in the article: the Tata Motor Company, which seems set to buy Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford. Tata is famous these days for the Tata Nano, a marvelously inexpensive car that seems destined to escalate India’s oil consumption at a rate commensurate with its economic growth. Why would cutting oil demand in the US reduce prices, when demand is increasing elsewhere? World oil consumption is expected to grow by 1.3 million barrels a day in both 2008 and 2009, according to the EIA update of March 11. (photo by goatopolis)
What can videogames learn from alternate reality games? And vice versa? Brandie Minchew summarizes the two discussions at SXSW here in her article at ARGNet. One of her conclusions: “Serious games have found a niche in the game world as game designers turn society’s search for ‘fun’ into a dialog about social and political issues.” This echoes a point I like to make: World Without Oil was a really fun game, just a different flavor of “fun” than what we’re used to finding in a game. Exactly the kind of fun you get from a really good dialog?
…the price of gasoline in the U.S. broke records, pushed higher than it’s ever been by the high cost of oil (now at $110 a barrel) and the ever-weakening dollar. “Analysts see little reason for the dollar to stop falling, or for oil and gas prices to stop rising, any time soon.” “Strong global demand for oil will keep prices high despite a downturn in demand in the U.S., two prominent forecasters warned.” Was this not a game?
WWO’s own Jane McGonigal delivered the closing keynote at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference, and her theme was “the future of happiness” featuring of course “games as the ultimate happiness engine.” World Without Oil was a case study in her talk, which may seem odd, as one doesn’t normally associate an oil crisis (real or simulated) with happiness. But as she spelled out in her talk, the latest research on happiness shows otherwise. As Jane aptly put it, “happiness is not (just) a warm puppy”; lasting happiness actually has more to do with doing something worthwhile with people you like, and that’s WWO all over. See Jane’s slideshow (and Soulja Boy dance) via her blog, Avant Game (edit) and a transcript of her talk by ARG mastermind Dan Hon of Six To Start. (photo by Ken Eklund)
WWO wins the Activism Award at South By Southwest – thanks Krystyn for pointing us to this great photo at WIRED. And thanks ARGNet for spreading the news. Kudos to all the members of the WWO team – a well-deserved honor.
Folks, you should check out the other finalists in the SXSW Activism category – they are all great sites:
Update: Lessons 4, 5 and 6 are now online, and the last plans are in editing and will be posted soon. See the Overview page for teachers!
Day 3 of the SXSW Interactive Festival – finding lots of interest in the idea of using ARGs in serious ways. Tonight’s the night of the SXSW web awards, and WWO is up for an award in the “making the world a better place” (Activism) category: Cathy Fischer of ITVS, Dee Cook and I are on hand and Jane McGonigal is flying in even as I write this. (And we hope to connect with even more WWO teammates by phone.) Double awards tension for us, as ITVS’ Independent Lens is also up for an award in the Classic category. Looking forward to a fun evening and very much thinking about the thousands of individual contributions that have brought us here… Thinking that it’s like The Wizard of Oz: it’s not the people behind the curtain, but the players in front who have given the WWO story courage, brains, and most of all, heart.
Price of a gallon of regular gas in Gorda, California: $5.19 a gallon. I’m just sayin’!
Venezuelan tanks rumble toward the Colombian border. Fuel costs inch upward as money bails out of the sinking dollar into petroleum futures. Oil over $103 a barrel. But who cares? Nothing we can do about it. We at WWO would rather focus on this:
Now if the oil-producing nations of the Middle East began to invest in alternative energies, would that signify anything, do you think?
Listen closely to the reason that Tom Petrie gives for why he thinks oil prices will decline in the next months: “Look, this economy can’t take $100 a barrel oil right now.” Which might be compelling to oil sellers, if we were the only buyer in town. Isthisnotagame?
Thanks to Leanan for posting the video.