Future Oil Wars Made Fun

"If you want to have an impact on young people on important issues, it's important to reach them outside the classroom as well as inside the classroom," he said, "Therefore entertainment has to be part of the mix."

Klare is hoping another form of entertainment will turn more people on to his research: movies. His book "Blood & Oil" is being made into a documentary.

"I know the power of visual imagery," he said.

Still, both Klare and Heinberg conceded that once Frontlines comes out, they probably won't be rushing to the nearest Xbox.

"I'm too busy reading the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times," Klare huffed.

Gaming for a Cause?

Ted Diamond, Nick Manos and Kristopher Renock were oblivious to Fuel of War. Indeed, the three teens — each is 14 years old — seemed oblivious to just about everything as they waited on a New York City subway platform one recent evening. The trio was discussing Halo, a series of games centered on interplanetary battles against alien foes.

But the boys were open to taking a break from extraterrestrial warfare. Told about Frontlines by an ABC reporter, the three said they would be interested in playing — and not just for the sheer pleasure of shooting stuff.

"If it has a compelling story, it's interesting to me," Diamond said.

Renock took it a step further.

"You'd probably understand what's going on in the world through the game," he said.

Will the game, as Heinberg hopes, increase consciousness of oil politics?

Todd Maroney isn't so sure.

Frontline's developers carefully accentuated the game's oil-poor context with scenery that includes solar panels and wind turbines — energy alternatives that presumably help Frontlines' denizens survive — as well as abandoned car tires and stoves rendered useless by a world that's almost out of gas.

But Maroney, 36, a Jacksonville, Fla. man who has played preview versions of the game, said that he doubted those details would stir any political sentiment among gamers.

"When the fight's on, obviously everything else loses focus and you focus on keeping yourself alive," he said.

Maroney said that the game has raised his awareness of oil issues. Still, he said, games are generally an "escape" for players.

If Fuel of War doesn't ultimately deliver a geopolitical punch, the gang at KAOS may not mind as long as players are enjoying themselves. Oil philosophy aside, game developers are still focused on fun.

"We're making a game and if there's a statement within that game that people pay attention to, then we feel fortunate to be able to tell that story," Cataldi said.

"If you're not interested," he said, "please move along and drive that vehicle and go shoot your friend."

Frontlines: Fuel of War, a THQ game, will be released Feb. 25. The game retails for $49.99 for PCs and $59.99 for the Xbox 360.

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