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Chavez in Russia

Chavez in Russia: all smiles

Another WWO pre-ja vu moment this week, reading this article by Megan Stack of the LA Times about Hugo Chavez’ visit to Russia, and what can only be described as the petro-drunk antics that he and Vladimir Putin indulged in. The two oil-rich nations signed energy security agreements, oil business deals, and arms deals, and expressed a common interest in establishing the ruble as a major reserve currency, replacing the dollar. The two spoke of Fidel Castro and waved off a report that Russia would begin to use Cuba as a base for nuclear-capable bombers.

These real-world actions mirror what players of the World Without Oil game foresaw as happening: the rise of a new world petro-order. And just to slam the point home, read this article by Norma Love about New Hampshire’s abrupt u-turn regarding Venezuelan oil. The upshot: for a number of years Chavez has offered free oil to keep America’s poor warm in the winter; New Hampshire has refused it on principle, led by Republican Senator John Sununu; except this year, not so much. “Live Free or Die,” except when it’s oil.

Made poignant by the fact that Gracesmom, probably WWO’s most beloved character, was a young single mom living hand-to-mouth in New Hampshire.

The turn of events points up something else that WWO got right: the government’s paralysis, and especially the Administration’s. Looking at the dive in oil prices the day after Al Gore issued his energy challenge only serves to highlight how unable the Administration is to generate any vision of a way forward. Thanks, Laurel, for the lead!

Petroleos de Venezuela SAOil prices up over $2 a barrel, to $93 or so, upon tumults legal and illegal. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez reacted with threats when a British court ordered over $12 billion in Petroleos de Venezuela SA assets frozen (PDVSA is Venezuela’s state-run oil company). In the Niger Delta, unidentified attackers fired on a vessel escorting oil workers, killing a sailor, and furthering fears that Royal Dutch Shell will lose yet more production in Africa’s largest oil-producing nation (an earlier attack on a Nigerian pipeline has already taken 130,000 barrels of oil a day off the market, possibly for months). To WWO players, this all seems familiar, as players forecast similar events in Venezuela and Nigeria during the game . . . especially since the nationalization of a multi-billion Exxon-Mobil facility in Venezuela (the action that caused the British court order), occurred in real life on Day 2 of WWO.

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.