Oiligarchy, playing with the Oil Peak theory


Oiligarchy is the new online flash game released by Mollenidustria. In this new adventure designed by Paolo Pedercini the player is CEO of a major international oil company. He acts as an “oiligarch” with the only goal to increase his capital and keep the carbon-fossil based economy as profitable as possible. The game starts after Second World War and runs chronologically through history providing specific references to events and acts, from the initial homeland exploration in Texas to the imperialistic invasions of Venezuela, Iraq and Nigeria. While the player fights against the reactions of natives and “terrorists”, he controls the government with donations to parties for the elections. But he always has to keep an eye on the market and the balance between offer and request. There are four possible endings. The player could be Fired at the beginning of his career for bad management. He could get MAD (mutually assured destruction), which represents the failed transition to a post carbon society due to too strong a control over government. Farewell West results in the collapse of the western civilization when the gross domestic product (GDP) goes under a certain level. Retirement is the happy ending, the successful change into a post-carbon society thanks to new government policies supporting renewable energies, people new lifestyle and the overcoming of the GDP growth imperative. The approaches that result in the Retirement are the only possible solutions to avoid the collapse foreseen by Peak Oil theory activists. Oiligarchy’s game mechanics are in fact based on an economic theory that can be summarised as follows: for any given geographical area the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. Early in the curve the production rate increases thanks to the discovery and the building of infrastructure. Late in the curve the production declines due to diminishing resources. If global consumption is not mitigated before the peak, the price rise will cause catastrophic chain reactions throughout the economy. The game is meant to popularise this theory. A typical Oiligarchy session will reflect this scenario with an initial expansion phase followed by a contracting phase marked by the struggle to keep up with the demand of the economic system. Molleindustria subscribes to the Neurogreen manifesto, which states, “The end of the world is not an event. It’s a process”. From a playability point of view Oiligarchy can be considered an extended business sim/tycoon game. However it doesn’t follow Salen and Zimmerman rules for meaningful play. Rather, the game disorients the player forcing them into the bad boys’ shoes in an environment that doesn’t punish unethical behaviour. That’s because, as Mollenidustria says in Oiligarchy’s post-mortem analysis, “the disorientation that indicates many open moral interrogatives is the biggest accomplishment of the game”.

Valentina Culatti