Top Secret [official site], a game about whistleblower Edward Snowden that you play in real time via email, was released at the weekend. It lurked on Kickstarter back in 2015, when Joe leaked his thoughts on it, delving three days into a demo where he met a cryptanalyst who made him genuinely encrypt all future emails he would send. It’s all generated by clever machines of course, but the delay between sending a message and receiving a reply is there to make it feel real.
The plot goes like this: you’re an applicant to NSA Signals Intelligence and there has been a defector. You’ve got to find them and stop this leak before it gets out of hand. As part of the Tailored Access Operations (these fellas are a real unit inside the NSA and are regarded as the most l33t haxx0rs working for the US government) it’s your task to “email selectors (names, email addresses, phone numbers) to their NSA team and receive surveillance reports on their chosen targets. The player must analyse the intel to choose their next target.”
It takes place over the course of 2 weeks in real time and can involve you really encrypting the content of your emails. Funnily enough, you don’t actually need to be online to play. A DRM-free offline version is also included with the game whereby “messages are sent and received from a fake inbox.”
There’s been a handful of games tackling surveillance since Eddie spilled the beans, and that’s good by me. Orwell and Project Perfect Citizen for instance are both games about snooping on “suspicious” individuals. It’s tempting to shrug about our privacy and government intrusion in an age when we openly post pictures of our first handjob for #ThrowbackThursday, but remember: John Government doesn’t deserve that picture. He’s not on your friends list.