TraMedia sources across the world are reporting that the NSA have infiltrated the online gaming world in search of terrorists and other evil-doers.
World of Warcraft, a game with 12 million players, is on the list. Is looking for terrorists on fantasy, role-playing games like WoW a bit of a stretch?
The New York Times reported Monday that U.S. and U.K. spies have been traversing the virtual gaming worlds for years now meeting up with informants and receiving inside information by the avatars created by the people trying to destroy the world. It seems that even mass murderers are suspected to take a little leisure time off.
Files that were leaked by activist Edward Snowden contained this information which reported the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ have been doing surveillance campaigns within gaming communities for some time.
Other games like Halo have been deemed a target by the sheer number of players alone. Millions of kids and adults spend months of real world time logged into these online universes. And it is no big secret that there isn't much discretion within the chat forums in these games, so anyone could see why some red flags might pop up on the NSA's radar.
The rationalization of their actions where contained within the leaked documents. The NSA believed that terrorists could use the gaming worlds to “hide in plain sight” while they relay secret information.
When Blizzard, the company who created WoW, was asked about their knowledge of the NSA spying within they did not respond for a while, but when they did they reported that they were, “unaware of any surveillance taking place. If it was, it would have been done without our knowledge or permission."
Microsoft also released a very similar statement saying that any surveillance had been done without their consent.
More justifications that came from the leaked 82-page document included ideas that terrorist organizations could be using first-person-shooter games to train recruits. The idea is that they learn combat tactics in the way that the pilots who ran the planes into the twin towers on 9-11 used flight simulators to hone their flying skills.
Anyone can see how playing WoW would hone an assassin's combat prowess.
Many people responding to the NYT's article are skeptical of the reasoning behind the infiltration of these games because of the accepted norm that the people playing the games are adolescents and antisocial, shut-ins.
It certainly is hard imagining an Islamic extremist logging into World of Warcraft as a level 80 mage to engage in some friendly questing, and while on the quest doing a shady arms deal with a passing elf. Maybe that is just the future of terrorism, though.