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As the effects of high fuel prices play out around the world, many people are commenting on the predictive power of the World Without Oil game – and it is remarkably eerie to see the events described by WWO players appear in real-life headlines and news stories.

But the real power of the game, I feel, goes beyond anticipating external events – i.e., telling the external truth of our relationship with oil. The real power is in activating internal truth: enabling people to see events and understand their connection to petroenergy. To pirate an old saying, telling external truths is giving people a fish, i.e. feeding them for a day; enabling internal truthtelling is by TrekkyAndyteaching them how to fish, i.e., feeding them for life.

As an example, let’s look at a comment to the previous post by WWO player PeakProphet: he relates his experience trying to find a home for two abandoned puppies. This is not a story that on its face has anything to do with oil. But once he scratches the surface we see it has everything to do with oil: $4.50 gasoline has really impacted people in rural areas; many families are seriously stretched; pets are expendable. And PeakProphet knows from the WWO game that the oil crisis burden will not fall equally, that alas it will fall mostly on anyone less able to scramble out from under it: the poor, the sick, the stretched, and yes, the defenseless family pet. From two half-starved puppies we come to see an entire region overloaded with abandoned pets, and thus we begin to apprehend the ways in which our oil crisis has already kicked the legs out from under so much that we take for granted. “Tiny Little Kitten” by TrekkyAndy via Flickr.

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Webby logoYowza, folks. WWO is up for an Academy Award (not that Academy, its interactive sister: the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, aka The Webbys). World Without Oil is a finalist in the Games category, which if nothing else gives us trifecta honors: won for Activism at SXSW, nominated for Environment at the Stockholm Challenge, and now for Games at the Webbys.

If David Bowie et al groove on WWO, that’s cool. The thing I’d really like to win, though, is the People’s Voice Award for our category. Because WWO was all about the people’s voice, in a way that no game has ever been before. And this is the year for serious games. And although you might read that WWO was “Ken’s game” or “Jane’s game” or whatever, we all know that’s basically not true. It’s PeakProphet’s game and Blueski’s game and MsGeek’s game and Burnunit’s game and RockLobster’s game, and on through two thousand more player names and 1,500 player stories.

If you need convincing, check out our Lesson Plans: players’ stories are now at the center of immersive high school teaching. If you find us worthy, please go vote People’s Voice for World Without Oil: http://pv.webbyawards.com/

(register -> websites -> entertainment -> games -> World Without Oil)

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.