Video Games

Try a Video Game That Challenges the 'Nothing to Hide' Crowd's Attitude to NSA Surveillance


The tongue-in-cheek game Nothing to Hide was born out of creator Nicky Case's dedication to privacy rights. Using the game, he intends to chip away at confidence in National Security Agency (NSA) procedures and give advocates something to think about.

The "anti-stealth" framework is an "inversion" of more familiar stealth-based video games. In the Panopticon-inspired environment, players must control behavior to please monitoring powers. Rather than avoid surveillance equipment, players actively work to remain in sight of yellow, triangle cyclops-eyed cameras. If a player walks outside the view of the camera, he or she risks death by summary, trial-free execution — because clearly he or she is a criminal with something to hide.

The name Nothing to Hide is, of course, taken from a common blasé reaction to state surveillance: "Well, I've got nothing to hide." The game confronts this attitude by drawing attention to the unpleasantness of being constantly monitored. Players are thrust into a dystopian environment devoid of privacy. Digital posters with creepy comments like "Smile for the camera" and "Thank you for participating in your own surveillance" cover the walls.

Case's opposition to surveillance stems from the National Security Agency leaks, but his time in Singapore also shaped his disapproval. He told Vice's Motherboard in an interview:

William Gibson once described it as "Big Brother with a smile." There is quite limited free speech there—you need a permit to write about the government in newspapers, and they try to jail filmmakers and bloggers for subversion.

The surveillance platform offers up an interesting platform for tricky puzzles. Spooky — if kind of groovy — music guides players through a dark maze of silver floors exposed by spotlights projected by the surveillance devices. 

The Nothing to Hide crowdfunding campaign ends March 12. It pledges 10 percent of the proceeds to Mozilla, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Demand Progress, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, "because we need our digital rights in this digital age." You can try the demo on the website.

Check out the GamePlay Trailer: