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A fictional detective story overlaid on real world events, Top Secret’s branching narrative takes you into the heart of the NSA.
A fictional detective story overlaid on real world events, Top Secret’s branching narrative takes you into the heart of the NSA.
418 backers pledged £8,832 to help bring this project to life.


Posted by James Long (Creator)


Time flies when you’re having... to finish a game! It’s already 2 weeks since the last update so what have I been up to?

Firstly I’ve been working hard on the email version of the game (not to be confused with the offline version). In particular working on the server and email tech to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible when it comes to launch. I’ve also added a few boring but essential items such as logging. Yes, surveillance in a game about surveillance. I’m sorry about that but the alternative is not knowing when things go wrong. In fact now that I think about it, this game is rather meta when it comes to surveillance:

  • it’s a game about surveillance

  • the characters in the game surveil each other

  • the game surveils the player

  • AND... of course, the NSA/GCHQ and other government agencies worldwide may be surveilling the player


Makes you think doesn’t it? (Well I hope it does, because that’s kinda the point!)

Anyway, back to business. As well as server side magic I’ve also added support for email attachments. The earth shatteringly obvious feature was something I’ve long wanted to do but had never quite got round to. Many of the Snowden docs have been released in PDF format and now they’ll be working their way into the game. In fact, it was the release of some documents very recently that spurred me into action...

A few weeks ago, The Intercept released excerpts from the NSA’s internal staff magazine ‘SID Today’. Banal yet fascinating, these documents reveal both the human and organisational culture behind NSA. There’s stuff about recruitment and promotions, staff events, jokes and morale-boosting missives. In short, it’s fantastic at emphasizing that the people working there are just regular folk working in conditions not too far removed from your own. This is the ‘banality of evil’ in today’s world. Normal, nice people working hard for an organisation which breaches human rights worldwide. There’s no malice, no evil men in suits, just people doing their job.

Every day in Top Secret, you’ll receive a new edition of SID Today into your inbox, but if you want to take a look right now, you can read more about them directly here.

The UK government passed the Investigatory Powers Bill with minimal amendments this week. You may have missed this as by scheduling the vote during the EU Referendum, the government ensured it had zero press coverage. Whilst the Greens, Liberal Democrats and SNP voted against, Labour supported the government and it passed by 444 to 69. Hopefully the Lords send it back, and there are some interesting legal cases which could also scupper key parts of the bill. Fingers crossed.

Ok a few last things.

Physical rewards have been ordered! They should be in your hands before the game launches.

The Top Secret launch party is on the 25th of June so if you’re a backer at TOP SECRET// level or above make sure to save the date! I’ll send you more details about this soon.

And finally, please remember to fill in your backer survey if you haven’t yet done so.



In the news

Being privacy aware in 2016 - Vox

Security by obscurity - Daniel Miessler

State of Surveillance (video) - Vice 

The muzzle grows tighter - The Economist

Researchers can identify people behind ‘anonymous’ data 90% of the time - Mashable

The Haystack (documentary) - Scenes of Reason 

SID Today - The Intercept 

Investigatory Powers Bill approved - Engaget

Jonathan Khoo, Gaal, and 2 more people like this update.


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