ITVS Interactive’s World Without Oil, an Alternate Reality Game Wins “Activism” Award at SXSW Web Awards

ARG Called Upon the Internet’s Vast Collective Intelligence to Address Peak Oil Concerns

March 11, 2008, San Francisco, CA— ITVS Interactive (Independent Television Service) and PBS’ Emmy® Award-winning weekly series, Independent Lens today announced that the alternate reality game WORLD WITHOUT OIL, in which thousands of people simulated their lives after a major oil crisis, took home the SXSW Web Award in the Activism category at the 11th annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Web Awards. 

The live interactive month-long alternate reality event kicked off in April 2007 at, with links to citizen stories in blogs, videos, photos, audio and phone messages posted all over the Internet. At the grassroots website people learned the broad brushstrokes of the crisis. Players filled in the details and shaped the direction of the game by posting their own perspectives from within the crisis. By May, the site had over 60,000 visitors from around the world and 1,900 registered players who collaborated to chronicle the oil crisis. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock. 

“WORLD WITHOUT OIL was the first ARG to draw upon the Internet’s vast collective intelligence and imagination to address peak oil concerns,” said WORLD WITHOUT OIL’s Participation Architect and Futurist Jane McGonigal. “Alternate realities signal the desire, need and opportunity for all of us to redesign reality for real quality of life. I’m honored that WORLD WITHOUT OIL was recognized for its contribution toward solving a real-world problem.” 

“I’m thrilled that the game has been acknowledged as an effective way to mobilize people and to shape the future,” said game Designer and Producer Ken Eklund. “The award really goes to the activists themselves. WORLD WITHOUT OIL was a massively collaborative effort driven by the contributions of its players—they are the ones who gave this game brains and heart.” 

Sponsored by Adobe, the SXSW Web Awards honored 20 of the top Web developers and designers chosen from hundreds of entries submitted across the world. “Each year we’re seeing an increase in the quality and creativity of entries to the Web Awards,” explained SXSW Web Awards Director, Shawn O'Keefe. “We congratulate all the 2008 Web Awards winners and look forward to following their success and stories in the future.” 

WORLD WITHOUT OIL has been transformed into an immersive archive of the game, with guided tours of player-created content, lesson plans for teachers, a seven-minute behind-the-scenes video and more at: 

WORLD WITHOUT OIL is produced by the Writerguy team, presented by ITVS Interactive (Independent Television Service), and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. An Independent Lens Web-exclusive presentation (PBS), WORLD WITHOUT OIL is an ELECTRIC SHADOWS project (ITVS). For updates and information about the game visit the WORLD WITHOUT OIL blog at: 

About the Game Creators 

The Writerguy team includes some of alternate reality gaming’s most experienced “puppetmasters” in addition to a Web producer, designer and outreach manager. Ken Eklund, Writerguy and creative director, has been working as a game writer and designer for 20 years. He is credited on over two dozen games as well as many Internet-based educational projects. Jane McGonigal, participation architect, is currently the resident game designer at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, CA. Previously she was a lead designer at 42 Entertainment, most notably for I Love Bees, an award-winning alternate reality game. In Fall 2006 MIT Technology Review named McGonigal one of the top 35 innovators changing the world through technology. 

Electric Shadows and Independent Lens Web-Exclusives Independent Lens on PBS presents interactive features throughout the series website at and is proud to be a portal to Electric Shadows projects which feature the unflinching visions of independent media makers via the Web. These award-winning Web-originals invite visitors to interact through non-linear storytelling and social issue games created by independent media makers. Presented by Independent Lens and ITVS Interactive and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Electric Shadows sites explore the arts, culture and society through innovative forms and meet the ITVS mission of taking creative risks and advancing civic participation. Since its inception in 2002, the Electric Shadows initiative has funded six online projects which have garnered a People’s Choice Webby Award, two SXSW Web Awards, selection as one of’s “50 Coolest Websites,” Yahoo! Picks, Cool Site of the Day and numerous other accolades. Explore the projects and learn more about Electric Shadows at For more information about ITVS, visit 

Contact: Voleine Amilcar 415-356-8383 x. 244

Posted on March 12, 2008