World Without Oil, First Alternate Reality Game to Confront a Major Social Issue: a Worldwide Oil Shock

All Web users invited to witness the oil shock, document their experiences, apply collective imagination to solve a real world problem

The serious game for the public good begins April 30, at "Play it before you live it"

Visit World Without Oil 

(San Francisco, CA)—Everyone knows that “someday” the world may face an oil shortage. What if it started today? How would your life change? PBS’ Independent Lens and its Electric Shadows Web-original programming today launched WORLD WITHOUT OIL, a live interactive month-long alternate reality event to explore this very real possibility. 

Produced by the design team at Writerguy, WORLD WITHOUT OIL is the first alternate reality game to enlist the Internet’s vast collective intelligence and imagination to confront and attempt to solve a real-world problem: what happens when a great economy built entirely on cheap oil begins to run short? This grassroots experience looks at the impact on people’s lives—work, social, family and personal—and explores what happens when our thirst for oil begins to exceed supply. 

“Alternate reality gaming is emerging as the way for the world to imagine and engineer a best-case-scenario future,” says WORLD WITHOUT OIL’s participation architect, noted futurist Jane McGonigal. “It’s been summed up this way:If you want to change the future, play with it first.” 

Beginning April 30, the nerve center for the realistic oil crisis is at, with links to citizen stories in blogs, videos, photos, audio and phone messages posted all over the Internet. At the grassroots website, people will learn the broad brushstrokes of the crisis, such as the current price of a gallon of gas or how widespread shortages are. Players will fill in the details, by creating Web documents that express their own perspectives from within the crisis. 

“The ‘alternate reality’ of WORLD WITHOUT OIL is not fantasy, it’s a very real possibility,” says Writerguy Creative Director Ken Eklund. “And the game challenge is one of imagination. No one person or small group can hope to figure out the complex rippling effects of an oil shock, but the collective imagination can. And understanding it is a serious, positive step toward preventing it.” 

People of any age or Web ability can participate in the game. Player communities are already forming to prepare for game launch, and pre-game play has started. To assist middle and high school teachers who want to incorporate the game into class activities, the designers have established a web page:

WORLD WITHOUT OIL will challenge players and player communities to engage the creative and collaborative skills that will be tested in an oil shock, and to document their ideas on the web. The game will honor outstanding player contributions with WWO None-Ton Awards: offsets of one metric ton (2,204.6 lbs) of carbon dioxide, accomplished through increased energy efficiency implemented by CarbonFund.Org. The game will bestow a total of 100 such awards, making WORLD WITHOUT OIL a carbon-neutral effort. 

WORLD WITHOUT OIL is produced by the Writerguy team, and is a joint project of PBS' Independent Lens and its Electric Shadows Web-original programming. 

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

About The Independent Television Service (ITVS) 

ITVS funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy® Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. 

CONTACT: Voleine Amilcar, ITVS, 415-356-8383 x 244

Posted on April 30, 2007