Virtual Oil Well Game

Teaching Material by American Geological Institute - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC)

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


This online strategy game has the player as a prospector trying to find oil, working off a limited budget. The player collects and interprets seismic data to search for oil traps. They are required to file environmental impact statements before drilling and use drill logs to determine when to start pumping. The player has access to a library, with several pages on how oil is trapped and how to find the traps using seismic data.

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Learning Goals

This game motivates students to learn some of the geological issues involved with oil exploration, particularly about interpreting seismic data. It also emphasizes the costs entailed in the exploration, in working with consultants, and in meeting regulations.

Context for Use

This game can eat up a lot of time (especially if students are guessing), so it may be useful to show it to them, give them the URL, and be prepared to answer a few questions about seismic stratigraphy and well logging during the next class. The players will need a fast Internet connection and a Java-equipped browser.

Description and Teaching Materials

Players will need a fast Internet connection and a Java-enabled browser. The applet is available on AGI's Earth Science World web site and is surprisingly fast and stable.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This game is most useful to students who are fairly competent at interpreting seismic diagrams as the consultants and other help provided with the game are not likely to give the students enough information to win without guessing.


Formal assessment not recommended. See if your students will try it on their own and measure the game's value in terms of the questions it generates.

References and Resources

The University of South Carolina has an entire USC Sequence Stratigraphy (more info) including movies, exercise modules, and enough hyperlinked instruction to constitute a textbook. This could be used for actual instructional material, with the game as the "hook" to interest the students.