You hear stories about people who get so caught up in these online role-playing games that they have trouble distinguishing their game world from reality. Some are so addicted that they play for 40 hours straight, keeping themselves wired on sugary drinks like Red Bull or Rockstar.
I never played these types of games, because they never particularly interested me. But I understand how someone could easily be drawn into them and find themselves being ruled by them. That’s partially the reason I’ve avoided them.
But the NSA and CIA think that these online gaming venues are the perfect place for terrorists to hang out and convey secret plan information. For this reason, the feds have been setting up their own virtual accounts to keep track of other gamers in case some of them turn out to be terrorists:
Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.
Online games might seem innocuous, a top-secret 2008 NSA document warned, but they had the potential to be a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Virtual games “are an opportunity!,” another 2008 NSA document declared.
But for all their enthusiasm — so many CIA, FBI and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions — the intelligence agencies may have inflated the threat.
The documents do not cite any counterterrorism successes from the effort, and former American intelligence officials, current and former gaming company employees and outside experts said in interviews that they knew of little evidence that terrorist groups viewed the games as havens to communicate and plot operations.
As I said before, these games can be very addictive. The “national security” excuse is used for everything these days. But this has nothing to do with national security. I think these agents just want to be able to play video games nonstop at taxpayers’ expense. “Uhh, no sir, I haven’t come across any terrorists yet, but I might find some on the next level. I’ll keep you posted. Check back in a week or so? Hey, could you send a crate of Red Bull my way?”