It may not be the most festive of themes, but at least our holiday gift to you this year is not a tie or socks. It's a free print & play board game called Deepsea Desperation. It's all about Greenpeace against Big Oil, with one player struggling to establish marine reserves in the very territory the other player wants to exploit. Through a mix of strategic lobbying, oil exploration, direct action and reserve creation, one of you will triumph. But beware: If you choose to be oil and get too many blowouts you'll have a deepwater slaughter on your hands, a mock twitter account handling your PR, pictures of dead animals in the paper, billions in damages and all those things that are so bad for your bottom line. And if a species falls extinct, you both lose.
You can download Deepsea Desperation here. Just print out the.pdf (on non-chlorine bleached, 100% recycled paper of course), cut out the counters, find some dice and coins and you're good to go.
Now, at Greenpeace we have many skills, but designing board games isn't one of them. That's why we elected to work with the professional satirists and board game designers Terror Bull Games (One distinguisher between amateur satirists and professionals is the use of terrorbull puns in their company names). Maybe it's just us, but after reading that a copy of their satirical game 'War on Terror' was confiscated by the police during the climate camp protests* we thought they might be sufficiently mischievous.
And they were. One of the great things about working at Greenpeace is that you can pick up the phone, call someone, and sometimes get the response 'We love you guys. Of course we'd like to help'. Which is pretty much what happened. After that it was just about coming up with a great game. We thought about renewable power versus dirty power, and wind farms versus oil rigs. An early version of the game had both players representing oil companies, trying to drill for oil without wrecking the environment -the moral of the story was that it wasn't possible - but it was a little depressing.
The final design is great fun, and gives you the opportunity to play either the daring activists, or the evil oil company. And let's be honest, we all like to let our evil side out every now and then. So here are a few tips for playing.
If you're the oil company you'll need to head straight for deep water. Sure it's risky, but that's where the money is. Set aside those moral scruples and go for the money. Do try and avoid the endangered species though, if any species becomes extinct, the PR backlash could shut you down and it's game over for both sides. If you're playing as Greenpeace you need to protect the ocean by setting up marine reserves. You can slow the oil companies down with direct actions (like occupying their rigs) but it's the creation of marine reserves that will finally end their deep sea drilling ambitions.
Of course this isn't just a game. The world's oil companies really are trying to drill in some of the riskiest and most environmentally sensitive areas in the world. Marine reserves - think national parks at sea - really are the answer. World Park Antarctica is closed to industry because you helped us win the campaign to protect it. There's no reason we can't do the same in the Arctic, where oil companies are licking their lips as, without a trace of irony, they welcome the shrinking of the ice caps due to climate change. See, retreating ice frees up more places they can drill for oil. Unfortunately that will lead to more climate change. You see the problem here. We like to call this humanity's "Stupid Test."
So, this holiday season, invite a few friends over and help us figure out what the future of the planet looks like: an oily eco-disaster that confirms to future generations (if any) that human greed is unstoppable or a pristine marine reserve that protects nature and future fish stocks that our childrens' children will thank us for?
Pssst. (If you like the game, why not donate a tweet a day to Greenpeace to say thanks?)
*The game comes with a balaclava. The police claimed that trouble makers could have used it to conceal their identity and so confiscated the whole game. Who says satire is dead?