Posted by: Mike Grenville | 18 January 2009

Play Oiligarchy

Part strategy game, part political statement, part chilling near-future narrative, Oiligarchy is an attempt to spread understanding of Peak Oil and  to highlight the intricate relations between war, politics, and energy corporations as a way to understand present and future crisis.

This free to play online game tries to describe how the USA became addicted to oil, how it could have been different, and how a successful or a failed transition to a post-carbon society would look like.

Developed by an Italian team of artists, designers and programmers that aim to start a serious discussion about social and political implications of videogames.

Oil Profits

The producers say that power structures can be understood more clearly if represented from a privileged position. So in this online game you are the CEO of a major international oil company and your job is to keep the carbon-fossil based economy as profitable as possible.

The game starts from 1945, arguably the beginning of the golden age of oil for the combined effect of the Green Revolution, the car culture and the suburbanization. Explore, drill, corrupt governments, hire mercenaries, engage in covert operations, fix elections (which are clearly broken without you). The unethical gameplay is designed to reflect the free market system, which is ultimately, the object of the critique.

However while the money factor is central at the very beginning, it quickly becomes totally ignorable as the player profit skyrockets. Then as domestic resources deplete, the player will be forced to explore and deploy wells in foreign countries.


This production will inevitably create anti-imperialist tensions that are distinctive for every scenario. Scenarios include Venezuela, Iraq and Nigeria which has an extra menu representing the government which allows the player to deal with the dissent.

Game Over?

Oiligarchy has four possible endings.

In the pre-peak phase the player can be fired for bad management if the demands exceed the offer for too many years.

The hardcore gamer will probably see the Mutually Assured Destruction ending that represents the failed transition to a post-carbon society. This global nuclear war scenario happens when the oil prices reach the ceiling of $300 per barrel and it is usually the result of aggressive and persistent efforts to control the government.

The retirement ending stands for a successful transition to a post carbon society when the oil addiction is less than 25%. Retirement usually happens when the player loosens the grip on politics around, or after peak oil. It is basically the happy ending, though it can be reached after some major catastrophes.

The fourth possible ending is titled Farewell West and represents a mildly dystopic collapse of western civilization as we know it.

Apparently good gamers tends to get rich and blow up the world while the bad, lazy or non competitive gamers reach a tragic end.

You can read background in a  game postmortem here. As the makers advise – “Be sure to have fun before the resources begin to deplete!”

Play the game here:



  1. Great game. Really gets you thinking like an oil company CEO. Very interesting. Those bleating protestors outside the White House were annoying though. They should just ban the lot of them.

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