1970s BP Board Game: Offshore Drilling Is Fun! (Which is a bunch of Bull, in my opinion)

“The thrills of drilling, the hazards and rewards as you bring in your own …”

Sound like the mantra of BP execs? Actually, it’s the tag line of an eerily prescient 1970s board game called “Offshore Oil Strike,” recently unearthed by the UK websiteMetro. The game, marketed by BP (naturally), sought to glamorize offshore drilling by positioning players as tycoons, pitted against against one another to gouge the most oil from their country.

Even the environmental and safety risks of the game were presented as something titillating. Players who drew “hazard cards” faced a rig blow-out and subsequent $1 million in fines (a price tag BP no doubt wishes it could get away with paying now). One imagines participants drawing the card and shaking their heads, as their teammates blithely chuckled nearby

The game has come out of the woodworks because a rare copy was passed along to The House On The Hill Toy Museum in Stansted, Essex. Museum owner Alan Goldsmith was intrigued by the game’s striking acumen, saying “‘The parallels between the game and the current crisis… are so spooky.” As he pointed out, the picture on the front of the box is particularly unnerving, with its isolated rig in a newly black sea, positioned above the words “an exciting board game for all the family.”

In the grand scheme of things, of course, the revelation of the game is an afterthought, a trivial and even humorous anecdote that provides some much-needed levity to the real-life oil spill devastation. But it also says something about the cavalier culture that BP—and its fellow tycoons in the oil business—have long perpetuated, through games, ads and pure PR spin: the powerful idea that oil drilling is a risky but fun adventure, bound up in the Wild West myth of exploration and conquest. The board game apparently wasn’t that popular, a fact which surprises me. After all, our culture has always been drawn to the the heat of danger. Just look at the success of Monopoly, a wildly popular board game predicated on reckless investments that has also taken on a creepy tone of late.

The fact of the matter is people (and corporations in particular) have always been intrigued by the idea of risk-taking because the reward always seems so satisfying. That’s why it’s easy to understand why players would be willing to face the penalty of a spill: If they avoided it, they could also collect a cool $120 million and score a win. BP may have just drawn a “hazard card” in real life, but something tells me they’ll keep fighting for that greenback victory.

Photo credit: Ebay.com


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