BP's Offshore Oil Strike, the Board Game

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Time was, offshore drilling was just a subject area for board games.

BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh, blogger-in-residence at the Canadian Center for Architecture, combed through a collection of oil-themed exploration games from CCA's archives.In among Total Depth: An Oil Man's Game and La Conquête du Pétrole, he found a salient and sad reminder that every oil company has long known drilling for oil in the ocean was a hazardous venture.

Offshore Oil Strike, presented by the Scottish company Printbox in partnership with British Petroleum in 1970 offers you, so the box claims, "the thrills of drilling, the hazards and rewards" of offhsore activity. The point of the game is to be the first to win $120 million "offshore petro-dollars."

Accumulating this fortune, however, is not without its difficulties. Each player has "Hazard" cards to deal with; here are some of the risks BP included: --"Accident. Rig shuts down while replacement of key personnel takes place. Miss one turn." --"Fire breaks out. Pay $2,500,000 for repairs." --"Hit High-Pressure Gas--Rig Damaged. Specialists called in." --"Blow-Out! Rig Damaged. Repairs cost $2,000,000" --"Drill pipe breaks. Pay $500,000 for replacement." --"Strike High Pressure Gas. Platform Destroyed." --"Blow-Out! Rig Damaged. Oil Slick Clean-Up costs. Pay $1,000,000."

More than old newspaper reportage or government studies, sometimes it's our throwaway cultural artifacts that best embed our hopes and fears about technology.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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