World Of Warcraft: The NSA Spy Journal

By Pete Haas 2014-07-12 07:36:24 discussion comments
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"Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents." - ProPublica

December 17th, 2010

The director called me into his office today to give me a new assignment. I'm going to be infiltrating World of Warcraft to see if any terrorists are plotting attacks there. I asked the director why I was chosen.

"The assignment requires someone to sit on their ass and play video games all day," he said. "Naturally you came to mind."

He laughed very loud after saying this. I tried to laugh louder than him. He stopped laughing. I left.

December 20th, 2010

I made my first WoW character today. After some careful planning, I decided to join the Alliance. This faction seemed like the more likely haven for terrorists:
  • Night elves: Vaguely oriental, sinister eyebrows.
  • Dwarves: Live in caves, love beards.
  • Draenei: Russian accents.
  • Gnomes: Love building makeshift weapons and explosives.
  • Worgen: Shapeshifters who blend in with normal population until the right moment and then transform into savage, murderous beasts.
  • Humans: All real-life terrorists are humans.
My character is a Hunter. Just like me. Because I hunt terrorists. Right now I'm just hunting boars, though.

December 21st, 2010

I've reached Stormwind, the hub of the Alliance. The trade chat channel is buzzing with activity, like some sort of virtual Middle Eastern bazaar. It was time do a little HUMINT. Surely there was some coded terrorist plotting going on.

I saw someone say, "LF Tank H Grim Batol." Through my research of various wiki's, I found out that Grim Batol was a once-proud city now inhabited by evil dragonkin. Was that a metaphor for Washington DC? Were they planning to assault the Pentagon with a tank obtained on the black market? I had to find out:

To [XdarkpriestX]: I may have a tank.
[XdarkpriestX]: Is it your alt?
To [XdarkpriestX]: What?
[XdarkpriestX]: Is it one of your other characters?
To [XdarkpriestX]: My war machine will bring down Allah's vengeance upon them.
[XdarkpriestX]: I'm so confused.
To [XdarkpriestX]: Can I join your group?
[XdarkpriestX]: Sorry, have to be level 85.

Infiltrating the terrorists' ranks would be harder than I thought. They must have sensed I was an outsider. To truly blend in, I was going to need to learn their ways. I was going to have to level.

December 27th, 2010

Why the hell would you make an entire underwater zone, Blizzard? The seahorse mount doesn't make it any less inconvenient. Now I have to have three mounts of my action bar instead of just one.



January 2nd, 2011

The director called me in after the holiday break to give him a progress report. I showed him my level 85 character, pointing out that each piece of his gear was now enchanted and gemmed.

"I specced Survival for better AoE damage," I said.

"Look," the director replied. "I don't care about your virtual Barbie doll. I want to know if you've found any terrorists."

"I'm building up my reputation within some groups," I said. This was technically true. I was halfway to Revered with Therazane. They're the faction that gives the best shoulderpiece enchantments. Probably not what the director meant, though.

"That's all well and good but we need something concrete. I can't justify continuing this operation if we don't have actionable intelligence."

The director was right. It was time to stop beating around the bush. I was going to have to do some raids.

January 4th, 2011

Raids had to be where the terrorists were congregating. It all seemed so obvious now: raids are groups of 10 or 25 people hanging out together in a dungeon for hours. All they talk about is progression and loot. In a word, they're fanatics. If they can care this much about a video game, maybe they can muster up the same enthusiasm for blowing up a bridge.

I found a pick-up group for a raid called Throne of the Four Winds. The final boss is called "Al'Akir." He's basically a tornado with a headscarf. I wondered if we were going to kill this Wind-Muhammad or just worship him.



I tried hard to win over the group's trust from the outset of the raid:

[Raid Leader][Tanksalot]: Anyone have any questions before we pull the boss?
[Raid][Notaspy]: I've got a question: die, infidel scum!
[Raid Leader][Tanksalot]: LOL.
[Raid][Mcmagey]: Typical hunter.

We didn't kill Al'Akir but it wasn't for lack of trying. That chain lightning is a bitch in 25-man. Also, our goddamn shaman kept getting hit by tornados. Stupid keyboard turner.

January 11th, 2011

The director wasn't too pleased with my progress. Doesn't he realize how rare the Reins of the Drake of the South Wind are? Al'Akir drops it less than one percent of the time. The print-out of my DPS report on the fight didn't impress either. He used words like "very" and "disappointed," usually adjacent to each other.

"Are you shutting down the project?" I asked.

"Meh," he said. "We spent a billion dollars wiretapping the Butterball turkey hotline. Fifteen bucks a month for WoW seems pretty cheap in comparison. You might as well keep at it."

So, the hunt continues for virtual terrorists. And loot. Mostly loot.

This article was first published on December 9, 2013 and was last updated on July 12, 2014.
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