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Apparently the government will pay you to play video games (and spy)

The holidays are approaching, which reminds me of all the people back home that often ask if I play games for a living. I try to explain that I spend way more time writing (like I’m doing right now), but I think most of my extended family believes I collect a paycheck by playing Call of Warcraft all day. While that’s not a reality for me, such a profession is out there. No, I’m not talking about being a game tester. I’m talking about spying on my fellow Americans in the name of national security.

Yes, as reported by the New York Times and others, new files leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden show that a collection of counter-terrorism agencies were spying via World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Xbox Live over the last few years. Now, I won’t get all political by commenting that secretly invading the privacy of millions of innocents trods upon the principles that this nation was founded upon, and that the seeming lack of any valuable arrests also makes this pursuit incredibly wasteful. What I really care about is that groups like the FBI, CIA, and more were using tax dollars to pay people to play games online. I want in on that money!

As the New York Times puts it, the government not only collected messages and private chats from games, it also sent agents online in search of terrorists using online games to stealthily communicate and recruit would-be operatives. Apparently, no real threat was found over YEARS of surveillance on games like WoW and Second Life--though I always assumed extremists had hired pre-teen males to say horrible things on Xbox Live as a way of making me lose faith in my country. But as these operatives secretly watched you level up in WoW, they were getting paid to play. That sounds like an awesome deal, but the NSA needs real gamers if they want to get the best return on their clandestine WoW clans.

I’ve got to think the NSA would be better served hiring someone like me than a dude who joined the FBI to, I don’t know, actually stop violent terrorists. My Gamerscore alone is impressive enough to get a would-be bin Laden to confide in me all of his or her crimes. And if I had illegal access to messages on Live or, I’d be one step ahead of every possible terrorist I played against. Yes, some former agents misused NSA information for personal gain, but I promise you I’ll try my hardest not to get caught doing that.

Now, I’m writing this directly to the NSA in the hopes that they’ll eventually read this as part of an uneventful investigation, so let me be blunt guys. If you hire me, I won’t play Second Life for any amount of money. If terrorists want to hang out with the sad sacks that play Second Life, those anti-Americans can have it. Besides, I bet the insurgents have moved onto League of Legends by now.

Whether or not I end up with a sweet government job from this article, let this be a lesson to younger gamers out there. As online gaming continues to grow, the NSA will need more and more people to spy on their fellow players. You could be just the person to join the War on Terror, keeping an eye out for Islamic extremists as you pwn noobs. I can think of no better public service.

Henry Gilbert
Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.