An online documentary about Fort McMurray, Alta., lets viewers visit the city at the heart of Canada's oilsands by taking part in a hybrid film-game project.

Fort McMoney lets players explore the city and surrounding areas in the frame of economic simulator and point-and-click adventure games.

Creator David Dufresne wanted to add an interactive dimension to the documentary to make the viewer-slash-player feel more like he or she is taking part in the city's history.

"The idea behind Fort McMoney is to do SimCity for real," says Defresne, referencing the popular series of city simulation games created by Will Wright.

He said the dynamic nature of the quickly growing town makes it ideal pair to a city-building game.

Fort McMoney 01

A screenshot of Fort McMoney, an online game-documentary where players can decide the fate of a virtual version of Fort McMurray, Alta. (fortmcmoney.com)

"It's time to find new ways to tell these kinds of stories," says Dufresne. "I think people, now, need to be inside the story."

'SimCity for real'

Players can explore areas in and surrounding the city, and choose to speak to dozens of residents who were interviewed by Dufresne and his team — from industrialists to environmentalists to everything in between.

Users can also interact with each other, debating topics such as, "Should taxes on petroleum products be higher?"

By voting on the questions, players will influence the growth of the in-game Fort McMurray.

The documentary debuted today and will roll out its four chapters over the next four weeks, each with new subjects, personalities and polls called "referendums" to debate and vote on.

"We knew that the interactive way to tell the story was the right one because there are so many issues, so many subjects, so many stories to tell in Fort McMurray," producer Raphaelle Huysmans told CBC News.

Fort McMoney, a joint project by the National Film Board and Montreal-based Toxa and Franco-German TV network Arte, is free to play on a computer browser or tablet.

Players will have to register via their Facebook or Twitter accounts beyond the first segment though, allowing them to take part in shaping the virtual city's ultimate fate.