"A world of malicious hacking and miltiary conflict. Of terrorism, money laundering, and international smuggling. No, not a game. It's real."
Real, indeed. This is the pitch in an advertisement running on Xbox Live - Microsoft's online gaming service - for the UK's Government Communications Headquarters, one of the country's three intelligence agencies. GCHQ sees the Xbox as an efficient means through which to target engineers and coders. "This means we can offer excellent training and careers for people with specialist technical skills," a GCHQ spokesperson told the Guardian, "However, the fact remains that many potential candidates remain unaware of GCHQ and what we do. Using video on Xbox LIVE helps carry our message to the right people in a creative and innovative manner."
This isn't the first time that a government has used games for recruitment. The U.S. Army created a free online game called America's Army for this purpose. According to Army Subcommittee Testimony from February 2000, the game is more effective recruiting soldiers than any other means.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.