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Edward Snowden digs this mass surveillance sim, Need to Know

Surveillance is an important issue for every person living in the digital age, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with the topic. That’s why the first release from Monomyth Games is a surveillance thriller simulation game called Need to Know. Filled with juicy civilian details, Need to Know questions your moral fiber and asks just how much citizen privacy you would sacrifice to get ahead in your field.

Need to Know is a story-based game that sets you up as a spy for the fictional Department of Liberty. “You must spy on citizens, pick apart their private lives, and determine how dangerous they are. How you’ll use this information is where the real excitement begins.” Some players are expected to climb the ranks of the Department of Liberty by completing missions, gaining higher clearance levels and therefore access to even more methods of surveillance and classified information. But players can also get crafty with the information you collect, using it to help resistance efforts or underground groups, leaking reports to the media, and becoming tried and true whistleblowers – if you dare.

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That’s probably why Edward Snowden endorsed the game with one simple message on Twitter: “Art imitates life.” The game presents issues of mass government surveillance with a nod towards the dramatic but an emphasis on accuracy. The world simulation aspect of the game makes it possible to use your probably illegal, mostly immoral surveillance techniques for personal gain, financial benefit, or for the good of humanity. But in addition to Need to Know’s moral quandary, the game also serves up global consequences to suit a player’s choices: “Negative choices can cause bombings, false arrests, corrupt bankers escaping prosecution, or even (gasp) your own demotion”.

The creators of Need to Know are hoping to launch the game through Steam Greenlight. While their application is pending, Monomyth is also preparing a DRM-free download for Windows, Linux and OSX. Future versions of Need to Know could include a geo-specific, real time mobile game, but Monomyth hasn’t made any promises.

Since Monomyth Games has started raising funds Kickstarter, the campaign has already passed the halfway point of its AUD $29,000 (about USD $20,000) fundraising goal. A pledge of about USD $11.50 will get you a DRM-free digital copy of the game, and you also kick off at Clearance Level Ten when it’s released. Backers that pledge USD $18 get early access to the game and start playing with Clearance Level Nine, so as the pledges go up it looks like clearance levels increase. If you do buy your way to higher clearance through the Need to Know Kickstarter campaign, you can expect to start playing the surveillance simulator by the end of this year.

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