At first glance, a learning game about oil exploration wouldn’t be at the top of every student’s list for an exciting and fun educational game. But ‘The Quest for Oil’ manages to incorporate learning about geology, geography and the global oil industry with engaging graphics and well-crafted gameplay.
Developed by Danish Oil and Gas company Maersk and costing US $400,000 to produce, its goal is to inform, educate and create a dialogue about oil exploration via real-time strategy and resource management gaming. The game was created using experts from the field of oil exploration including real-life Geologists, Chemical Engineers and Drilling Directors. It is obvious that the game has a very high degree of professional insight and a great deal of thought has been put into the game.
The game is strategy-based and introduces students to the oil exploration and drilling process by having them make decisions based on scarce resources such as time, money and oil fields. The ultimate aim of the game is to produce more barrels of oil than your opponent and learn about the geography of the world beneath us. One of the key benefits of the game for the classroom is how it teaches students how to read the earth’s layers and understand difficult topics like seismic analysis, reservoir identification, drilling wells and optimizing production through thoughtful game structure, easy to understand user interface and immersive challenges.
Each player has a set amount of money at the start of the game, and they must invest and purchase important oil production assists such as licenses and equipment. This gives students an idea of the massive costs involved with oil production and the difficult balancing act of managing a 53,000 tonne oil rig. Students investigate the geological layers of the earth to find where oil is located, and learn about different rocks such as sandstone, limestone, shale, and chalk. In order to analyse the rock, players can watch helpful videos from oil exploration experts or buy more concise advice as to where potential reservoir rocks are.
The educational benefits of The Quest for Oil are not limited to just the Geography and Environmental Science classroom. The strategic nature of the game play is an excellent way for students to learn about budgeting, resource dissemination and project management. Learning about oil production can also lead to group discussions on the sustainability of resources like oil, the environmental impact of non-renewable resources and comparing oil to other energy sources. Having students ‘work’ in an oil rig also shows the difficulties involved in many jobs that may not be as obvious to students.
Strategy-based games can be very beneficial for active and reflective learning, and ‘The Quest for Oil’ allows students to experiment with different strategies for oil exploration. Students can also modify their strategies to see which are the most effective and reflect on their decisions. These types of games are also a useful tool for contextual learning where students experience learning in the context where it originates from. This helps them relate the game to the real world, and apply what they have learned in the game to other geological and geographical topics learned in the classroom.
The game has been used in some classrooms with very positive results, including this video from Naerum High School in Denmark. Teachers found that the game made students more motivated to study geology. Students liked the realistic visual presentation of the game, and being able to see concepts that were usually written on a blackboard. They found that seeing the layers of the earth presented in the game gave them a different and clearer understanding of geology. They also enjoyed the competitive element of the game, and found this to be a motivational force for playing the game through improving their scores.
Allowing students to learn in a situation that they would never be able to do in real life gives them a sense of empowerment, an insight into an interesting new world and perhaps even an awareness for future study and employment in the field of Geography or Geology. As well as providing many resources, game guides and videos, Maersk also have some great 3D videos of oil platforms, drill bits and rigs that are a good addition to the game, or to use on their own to supplement classroom teaching.
The Quest for Oil is available to download for free via PC and Mac.