What if someone could develop a community-based, emergent, narrative, futures-oriented online game with a sustainability theme? That’s ticked a lot of my buttons and it seems that this has already been done. Anthony Williams over at Wikinomics chronicles a conversation that he had with Ken Eklund, a freelance writer and game designer, and the creator of a fascinating Alternate Reality Game (ARG) called World Without Oil.
World Without Oil is an alternative reality game based around a scenario of a global oil shortage. It ran for 32 weeks and asked participants to imagine what they would do and how would they cope if a particular situation unfolded. They were asked to post their responses and see how other people were adapting. It both examined how people would cope at the local level plus interact with others and learn from them on their ventures. In this way, it was quite emergent as the stories that people told were their own and how they acted in the game was entirely up to them as to how they exerted narrative control over the situation.
I really liked how this worked; it did not rely on the opinion of experts but went to the grassroots of the populace to see what they would do under a particular set of conditions and get them to interact to determine the nature of the situation and to identify alternatives to deal with what was happening. Games such as these would make for excellent classroom material for teachers to work with their students or for foresight practitioners to design scenarios to explore how an organisation would respond to a future situation.