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The game of politics is an alternate reality game (and has been all along), and so it’s fascinating to see how¬† ARG techniques are challenging traditional political gameplay. The most striking example I’ve seen is the Anne Kilkenny email about Sarah Palin. I don’t think the strategists behind her nomination reckoned on the power of WWO-style crowdsourcing to answer the questions about the nominee so deeply, so quickly and so plainly. They must not have played the World Without Oil game.

Librarian reading "The Handmaid's Tale," a banned book

Librarian reading a banned book

In World Without Oil, people told the truth as they saw it, from the perspective they were at, about the days when oil was no longer cheap. It’s important to note that they were the experts at this: no official can say what any given person will do when oil prices go higher. And it’s turning out, of course, that this means that no official can say what individuals in the aggregate will do: every week it seems there’s some new story about an agency or a business or an organization that’s struggling to adapt to some change in public behavior that they had not foreseen.

The old political ARG manipulates the media to keep its spins spun and its secrets secret. A nominee or an officeholder can refuse to meet the press or answer questions or even appear in any forum that’s not tightly controlled. To use Clay Shirky’s term, the model is “filter, then publish.” But the Internet is all about “publish, then filter,” and this is a whole new game. Photo by hatcher.library via Flickr.

It was the world's first serious alternate reality game, a cooperative pre-imagining of a global oil crisis. Over 1900 players collaborated in May 2007 to chronicle the oil crisis with their own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock, but its effects continue, as game designers analyze its unique gameplay and we all watch the continuing drama with global oil prices and supply.