(originally posted December 15, 2008)
It may be a good sign that your simulation has verisimilitude when you get people arguing over what, exactly, constitutes "victory."
In this game, you are the head of an oil conglomerate. You can exploit resources and use campaign contributions to get a friendly and cooperative U.S. government. The game ends when the shareholders fire you (for not making them enough money), you're forced into retirement (by the end of dependence on oil), or everything goes up in a mushroom cloud (if the economy crashes from too little supply for the demand for too long).
So far, so good. But how do you win? Is it by lasting as long as possible before any of the three happen? Is it by lasting as long as possible while yet managing to keep the shareholders happy and bring the economy to a soft post-oil landing (i.e., retirement)? Or, as one person argues on the "Tips and Walkthroughs" section at addictinggames.com, is it to reach retirement and a non-oil addicted world as quickly as possible?
Myself, I've tried for the "soft landing" victory, but generally, I end up with the mushroom clouds somewhere in the latter half of the 22nd century. (My longevity record is 2213, but that ended with a bang, too.)
Is the point to save the world, save your job, or a combination of the two? The very ambiguity may be the game's biggest contribution to making you think about the goals and future of the oil economy.
2011 Update: Since then, I've read the creators' "postmortem," and yes, the ambiguity is part of the point. As they say, "we think that this kind of disorientation that indicates many open moral interrogatives is the biggest accomplishment of Oiligarchy."
(click here to proceed to game)