Ken Eklund, writerguy

I am an artist in game design, collaborating on alternate realities, immersive adventures, and other embodied and participatory storymaking experiences. I am playful.

About the Writerguy

Ken Eklund

I am an artist working in game and experience design, informed by a career freelancing in the games industry. My interests and research include the persuasive and transformational effects of immersive and participatory storymaking and exploring real-world issues and imagining positive futures through emergent narrative. I assemble teams that develop and implement innovative game approaches as engagement engines for museums, universities, cultural institutions, and public media.

I was the creator and team lead of the authentic fictions World Without Oil (2007), Ed Zed Omega (2012), and FutureCoast (2014-7); a principal artist in the immersive urban street games Zorop (2010) and Ruination (2014);  creator of geolocated adventure games Giskin Anomaly (2010-2), Rogue Squirrelbot (2015) and Abundant Future (2019); a creative director of Base Camp Earth (2003-4), the Science Mystery series (2002-5) and other educational projects. I helped create the immersive festival Emerge: Luna City 2175 as Resident Artist at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University (2017-8).

I live in Oregon USA.

What I've Done

Notable projects in game and experience design

World Without Oil

Alternate Reality Game, Authentic Fiction, Immersive Storymaking

Creator's Statement

World Without Oil was a "what if" game – what if an oil crisis started on April 30, 2007? It simulated the first 32 weeks of this realistic oil crisis, by inviting people anywhere on the Internet to contribute their accounts of their life in the crisis to a "collective imagining." The idea was, "play it before you live it."

The innovative game approach created an online space for a documentary to write itself and a community to coalesce around that process. Collaboratively building the narrative not only created a vivid, immersive, multi-authored account of life in an oil crisis – it made the game experience life-changing for many of its players.


Alternate Reality Game, Authentic Fiction, Collaborative Cli-Fi

Creator's Statement

FutureCoast has an open, playful premise: what if voicemails are leaking out of our possible futures? They're fascinating to listen to, because each voicemail hints at what's (climate)changed and what life is like as a result. And these future visons build on each other as the game plays out, as the voicemails we hear on the site are made by the players themselves. As an eminently familiar and accessible form of storytelling, voicemails are an easy (and fun) on-ramp to imagining futures. Through the collaborative process of collecting authentic-sounding narratives, FutureCoast opens up an immersive, participatory path to futures thinking.

Giskin Anomaly

Immersive Adventure, Wayfinding Game, Cultural Experience

Creator's Statement

"What we know so far: two people are operating 'under the radar' in Balboa Park. They are investigating 'anomalies' – Pandora finds them with a detector and Drake decodes them. The two don't get along. Rather than meet, they communicate by voicemail – and to follow in their footsteps, you just call their number with your cellphone...

"Which is worthwhile, because the anomalies turn out to be 'ghost thoughts' from World War II. Drake and Pandora are chasing a riveting personal story... exploring the history and culture of the war years... and now, so can you."

Ed Zed Omega

Authentic Fiction, Interactive Documentary, Play-Performance

Co-Creator's Statement

This collaborative thought experiment and "interactive documentary" used a unique provocation to crowdsource perspectives about education today. The Zed Omega teens, played by actors, "dropped out loud" from high school – frustrated with traditional education, they left to explore the alternatives.

The Zed Omega characters seemed real – the young actors channeled aspects of their real-life experience – and freed from real-life consequence, people could tell the Zed Omegas what they truly thought about education today. This authentic connection brought questions about school's purposes and methods out of the abstract into the immediate and real.


Interactive Art, Geolocated Pervasive Game, Festival Game

Co-Creator's Statement

Zorop is a game that reinvigorates community by fostering diverse and creative connections among strangers. A cadre of volunteer Zoropathians don bright scarves and head out into the streets, encouraging people who don't know each other to connect and discover hidden things they have in common. They then feed that information into a browsable 3D data visualization in the central hall. By relating social contact to the experience of public space, the participatory artwork illustrates how fostering simple connections can lead to meaningful social gains.

Ruination: City of Dust

Environmental Game, Mystery Game, Embodied Education

Gamemaster's Statement

Our mission: to make art that would bring Minneapolitans to feel a new reality: their water resources are being stressed. To that end: a game. At heart, Ruination's a mystery game, because mysteries encourage people to dig for knowledge. It's a team game, to encourage collaboration and collective action. It's played on (and off) bikes, so that players will directly experience the wide green spaces that are at risk. We structured the game to immerse players in artful moments – playful and fun, sobering and reflective, deep, enigmatic, light and social – because such moments open the player to empathy and personal transformation.

Project Details

Awards, Producers, Presenters, Funders, Collaborators, Credits

World Without Oil is an Independent Lens Web-exclusive presentation of an Electric Shadows project presented by ITVS Interactive and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Produced by Writerguy.

World Without Oil logo
presented 2007 full credits

FutureCoast is a storytelling project done by the team at Writerguy as a member of the PoLAR Partnership at Columbia University. The PoLAR Partnership championed an array of innovative approaches to climate change education, funded by the National Science Foundation.

FutureCoast logo
presented 2014-2017 full credits

Ed Zed Omega is a public media project for the common good. It was created by Writerguy in partnership with Twin Cities Public Television, as part of Localore, a national initiative by the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), with financial support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Wyncote Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ed Zed Omega logo
presented 2012 full credits

ZER01 commissioned ZOROP for the 3rd 01SJ Biennial, and presented it with the support of the James Irvine Foundation. Artists: Annette Mees and Ken Eklund.

ZOROP logo
presented 2010 full credits

Ruination: City of Dust is produced and presented by Northern in collaboration with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and game designer Ken Eklund, in partnership with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Support for Ruination: City of Dust comes from a Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant.

Ruination: City of Dust logo
presented 2014 full credits

Reach Out

What I do these days: speak, guest lecture, consult on narrative and participatory game and game-adjacent projects, design immersive experiences. Available for artist residencies. Happy to talk to you about your project ideas.

Contact Info

Where I Am

Corvallis area, Oregon, USA
Pacific Time

Email Me At