World Without Oil

World Without Oil (WWO) is Jane McGonigal’s latest project. Like the name implies, WWO describes a world where peak oil has been reached and the world is quickly finding out that less oil means a lot more than less transportation. McGonigal was involved with I Love Bees, the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) produced to advertise Halo 2. It’s no surprise then that WWO has many classic ARG elements.

Many characters post to LiveJournal or the WWO site itself, which makes it possible to leave comments and speak to them directly. Some even hang out on IRC for some real-time interaction.

Most of the content is created by players, though. Players sign up to represent their area, helping the in-game reponse there. They can improve their area’s response (and their own ranking) by posting in-game blogs, podcasts, or video. Every day, dozens of posts are aggregated on the front page of the WWO site. In addition, the WWO team picks their favorite posts of the day and puts them in the summary for that “week.”

In a new twist for ARGs, each real-time day counts as a week, including spikes in gas prices, riots, terrorism overseas, and mention of some of the things that players have blogged about. Players are also taking on a definite role instead of playing themselves as in other ARGs.

It’s a great concept. My favorite aspect is that once the game is over, there’ll still be this cloud of interrelated websites and blogs that describe a world that never was. By playing the game, people are creating a record of the game that can later be read. The WWO team also creates a daily 5-minute podcast (the perfect length for a podcast!) that does a good job of getting you into the world.

My problems with it so far are pretty minor. I signed up ahead of time and never received an email about the launch, so I came into the game a little late. The main site is also hard to understand the first few times you see it (the pictures on the left represent blog, audio, or video posts by players and you can submit a post through the “Tell Your Story” link in the vertical orange bar). Also, make sure you type your password in correctly when posting a blog entry! I mistyped it and it silently failed to connect my post with my username. One email to a character later and that got fixed, though. Kudos to the team for being so accessible in-game.

Overall, I highly recommend reading through at least some of the “weekly” summaries linked from the front page and some of the player-created content (you can now read mine here). Then, if you feel inspired, you can get started by merely posting and submitting a blog entry! How would you handle a world without oil?

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