By Nathan Grayson on October 24th, 2012 at 10:00 am.
The British Intelligence Officers Exam is technically an advergame. It’s also among the more authentic James Bond experiences I’ve ever had. Oh, and it’s a text adventure – a startlingly unique one, too. Then again, considering its pedigree – it heralds from Hide&Seek, the folks who put together this wild “playful experience” festival Kieron wrote about before he became a ghost – that’s not as shocking as you might think. In short, though, TBIOE doesn’t actually put you in direct control of a character. Instead, you converse with an agent in the field who’s attempting to accomplish any number of objectives – for instance, escaping from baddies with precious data in hand or tracking a notorious arms dealer. I even found myself paralyzed by a couple seriously tough non-black-and-white choices that actually made me think. The real magic of TBIOE, though, lies in its language. Its agents may not seem entirely human, but they do a pretty convincing impression most of the time.
It’s the little things, I think, that make it. Agents take a moment to reply – as though they’re actually typing out a response – and the flow of conversation is actually, well, existent. In the heat of the moment – when the clock was ticking on a bio-bomb and we were feverishly going back-and-forth over our options – it was easy to forget that I wasn’t working with another person. Other times, they talked back or cracked darkly humorous jokes or voiced their frustrations and fears. Personality emerged from the situation, often with my imagination filling in the blanks.
As a result, I became oddly protective of my agents, even though they were faceless and I knew next-to-nothing about them personally. One survived a brush with certain death and then thanked me profusely. I grinned like an idiot. It was a strange moment – especially because I’d effectively convinced someone I was a bomb disposal expert – but a strong testament to how much of a difference those little details can make.
Granted, TBIOE does trip and stumble disastrously into its arrangements of smoke-and-mirrors from time-to-time. I lost an agent because I kept having to rephrase a sentence, and seconds before their exceedingly un-James-Bond-like death, they snarked out, “Yeah, well, you could’ve suggested that sooner.” I did you dead jerk who’s dead now aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrghhhh.
Overall, though, it’s a very neat experiment. I definitely recommend giving it a go, just as much as I suggest you BUY SONY VAIO XPERIA PHONE SONY TABLET SONY SONY. Ahem, sorry. Known side effects of exposure to TBIOE also include, well, that. I imagine you’ll figure out why pretty quickly.