[-empyre-] playing World Without Oil

Claudia Pederson ccp9 at cornell.edu
Fri Mar 22 15:47:04 EST 2013

My thoughts exactly. Thank you Paolo for putting forward these questions.
This type of game is really fascinating to me as I ask myself why players
would commit themselves to the degree that you describe Ken.  It is rather
remarkable given the busy schedules that people work with. Along these
lines, I would like to hear more about the audiences that WWO, etc.,
attracts (in the context of "I love bees" [
http://www.avantgame.com/ilovebees.htm] I understand that the audiences
were demarcated by the marketing goal of the game, but in case of WWO this
is less clear to me, hence my question about the use of the game in
educational settings, though it does seem that the audience for this game
is broader?

On Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 5:50 PM, paolo - molleindustria <
paolo at molleindustria.it> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I followed World Without Oil closely when it came out. It's a really
> fascinating experiment in roleplaying and Alternate Reality Games. I always
> wondered why, despite the significant media attention, there are so few
> examples of this kind.
> Since Ken is with us, I'll take the liberty to go into more specific
> designy issues.
> We are obviously talking about a different level of engagement and a
> different kind of model player here. These games typically ask a lot from
> the participants and require a certain predisposition and sustained
> commitment.
> From the designer/developer side, it seems to me that a project like WWO
> needs a serious promotional effort to gather a critical mass of
> participants (relying on established network and organizations), and there
> is a degree of user self-selection in the process. Since the "content" is
> either collectively created or revealed gradually, I assume most people
> joining an ARG have a vague idea of what an ARG is beforehand. Similar
> projects like Jane McGonigal's Evoke have built-in viral campaigns. They
> essentially reward players for bringing in other players, but that's a bit
> of a turn off for me. I'd rather experience something first and then, if
> it's compelling, tell the world about it. I wonder what are your thoughts
> about it.
> Another aspect that I always tried to wrap my mind around is: how do you
> manage agency in a distributed and collaborative storytelling/brainstorming
> effort? Formalized games, digital or not, provide a tight feedback loop
> that make the player feel like their action actually matter within the game
> system. Even in roleplaying games or free-form storygames players are
> constantly negotiating, affecting and limiting each other. My understanding
> of WWO or Evoke is that puppetmasters/organizers come up with a series of
> challenges along the line of "let's all think about how to save Africa" or
> "let's imagine how your daily life would be during an oil crisis" and then
> ask the players to produce social media content (blog posts etc) in
> response. I know sometimes there are external rewards for participating
> (like scores or prizes) but I didn't find examples of players engaging with
> each other and coming up with something unexpected, something that is more
> that a short essay. I'm sure you analyzed behaviors and user-generated
> content and maybe you can give us some insights.
> P
> On 3/19/13 11:57 PM, Ken Eklund wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Claudia wrote:
>> I'm familiar with WORLD WITHOUT OIL, though I'm not sure how the game
>> mechanics play out beyond the website form, or the discursive exchanges.
>> Could you please speak a bit about this? (I have the impression that the
>> game is distinct from Mcgonnical's work, which plays off and online). Do
>> players play out these simulations?
>> /Ken: Sure, Claudia. The unfortunate thing is, it's much harder to
>> explain WWO than it was to play WWO!
>> I wrote earlier:
>> "WORLD WITHOUT OIL had a simple device: on its website (
>> worldwithoutoil.org) it pretended that an oil crisis had started. It
>> presented itself as the "citizen nerve center" for the crisis and asked
>> people to send in reports describing their lives in the oil shortage. It
>> immersed itself in its own fiction, i.e., the metadata about the project
>> was made unobtrusive; once you acquainted yourself with what the project
>> really was you need never be reminded again.
>> "In WORLD WITHOUT OIL, then, there was no separate representation of
>> yourself, and there were no rules. Because the gamemakers set examples with
>> themselves in the game, people understood they were to try to imagine their
>> lives realistically in an oil shortage. This proved to be a very fun
>> experience for a lot of people and a very powerful experience for some."
>> That describes the game mechanic, but of course it smacks of describing
>> soccer as "kicking a ball around." Back in the day, I prepared a blog to
>> relate a typical game observer's experience -- it's here, at Gretchen Sans
>> Petrole: http://gretchenv.wordpress.com
>> If Gretchen had been a player, she would have included an account of her
>> contributions: she would talk about the things she read and observations of
>> her own life that inspired each story she created, the responses each of
>> her contributions got from the game and from other players, and the effect
>> they had on the game narrative as a whole. It would be readily translatable
>> into typical game lingo: "I entered the game, and I made this move, which
>> kinda worked, so then I tried this, and that worked better, and then I did
>> a bunch more, and in the end I felt really good because I played really
>> well and added some elements to our victory."
>> Re: Jane McGonigal
>> WORLD WITHOUT OIL is and isn't distinct from what Jane does. It certainly
>> isn't distinct in that Jane was a part of WWO -- she became available
>> shortly before the game rolled out and I immediately hired her on. You can
>> see her touch in the "missions" and "awards" that we added to WWO after she
>> came on board. It is distinct from her work in its core gameplay mechanic
>> of "immersive participatory narrative" as described above.
>> Re: "Do players play out these simulations?"
>> In their heads, certainly. Which is all you need.
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