Fort McMoney, A Documentary Video Game on the Alberta Tar Sands

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013
Fort McMoney, A Documentary Video Game on the Alberta Tar Sands

For a limited time, you have the opportunity to visit beautiful Fort McMurry (Alberta, CA) free of charge, and play a critical role in decision-making about the development of the Alberta tar sands.  Just this morning I spoke with an oil lobbyist after watching his testimony at a municipal council meeting, visited  the Black Sand camp, where 20,000 to 40,000 laborers live and work, and (most exciting of all) stopped by the Coverall shop, “the oldest and biggest cleaner of work clothing in town.”

I was playing “Fort McMoney,” an interactive documentary and strategy video game running live from November 25 until December 16.  The game offers an incredible window into the multifaceted issues involved in large-scale energy extraction, which are generally hidden, mystified, and obscured.  Participants travel around the town, “talk” to different players, from oil workers to politicians, by choosing which questions to ask them, and then vote and debate on pre-selected questions, such as whether the oil sands should be nationalized (over 80% say yes).  As of December 9, nearly one million people had already participated.  Along the way you pick up “influence” points which help you to win people over to your “worldview.”  (AKA politics.)

The game/documentary was directed by David Dufresne, who shot over 2,000 hours of footage for the project, and is available in English, French, and German.  Each “conversation” I had was fascinating, the issues are framed in a provocative manner, and the documentary footage itself is beautiful — apparently strategy games have come a long way since I played SimCity and MYST in the mid-1990s.  You can read more about the project here and read an interview with Dufresne here, but I would recommend playing the game instead.