Need for Speed Hydrocarbons


Apologies for my rather slow return to Ludus Ex: many interesting events have happened meanwhile and have been missed by me because of other engagements. As I try to refuel my engines and get back to research after conferences, parties and my other job (not necessarily in that order though), I find myself in a world plagued by petrol crisis and inflation. This makes me wonder whether petroleum, that extremely important mixture of hydrocarbons, has any of the effects on the videogame-world as it does in other aspects of our quotidian affairs.

Need for Speed but No Need for Petrol?

The thing that surprises me is that videogames seem to ignore this very important part of our lives. We drive cars in GTA 4, race like crazy in Need for Speed Carbon or Motocross Madness and we even fly all kinds of aircraft in videogames but I don't remember ever having to go to a petrol station. Not that petrol has been ignored altogether in videogames: players of Rise of Nations will remember how important it is to possess your enemies oilfields so that your tanks and planes can keep flying. Suddenstrike introduced petrol trucks as an important element in its Resource War version: the animated petrol truck explosions bring a sense of fear into even the mightiest martial spirits. A more recent (and for me extremely disappointing) game series called Act of War even has the petrol crisis as a key theme. In general, however, games seem to avoid the issue. The in-game characters need weapons, ammo and even food but their cars seem to have an inexhaustible supply of fuel. I wonder why. Also, why connect the importance of petroleum only to military affairs?

As games get more 'serious' and responsible, perhaps they will be able to take this into account especially keeping in mind the millions of people who play them.


  1. apols for commenting on my own post but i just discovered that Mafia (the game) has cars running out of fuel and a realistic fuel meter. And it is set in the 1930s ... now, is that a message for us?

  2. Yes sir since both of the Mafia versions have this realistic fuel meter, it becomes much of a pain getting your car to refuel in a few missions. I haven't played any game yet other this franchise that really included this thing. I totally agree with you sir that every game avoids this issue deliberately. In, eg, NFS Hot Pursuit (2010) you deploy spike strips and launch EMPs and all, and where's the thing about petrol? It's even more striking that in the more serious NFS Shift series, pit-stops are missing! The F1 series has retained this and it is commendable.
    But, at the end of the day, we all want infinite energy to run our lives, isn't it sir? :)

    And sir I'm studying in your GenEd class.