One of the contradictions of Top Secret is that it’s a game about the dangers of surveillance, in which your play is itself subject to surveillance. Every email you send whilst playing can be intercepted and read by the NSA or GCHQ. What if there was a way to send messages in the game securely? Enter PGP.

“PGP empowers people to take their privacy into their own hands. There has been a growing social need for it. That’s why I wrote it.”

- Philip R. Zimmermann

PGP is the method used by Snowden and others to protect the contents of their communications. It’s a form of end-to-end encryption where only the receiver can decrypt the message. It’s been around for over 20 years and is still used by activists (and spies) all around the world. As far as we know, it’s one of the few encryption methods the NSA can’t break.

So how does it work?

Imagine you have an unbreakable, unpickable padlock to which only you have the key. You give the padlock to a friend. They can now put a message in an unbreakable box, lock it with the padlock and send it to you knowing that only you can open the padlock to see the message. It doesn’t matter if the box is intercepted en-route because only you have the key to open it. Even your friend can’t open the box once it’s locked.

Your clever friend also has an unbreakable padlock with their own (different) key so you can send them messages the same way. You can now communicate securely (as long as you keep your keys private. Hooray!

In real life, unbreakable boxes and unpickable padlocks don’t exists, but they do digitally (or close enough). With PGP, instead of a padlock, you have a ‘public key’. It looks something like this:

-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
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=qiac
-----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----

Your friends can lock (encrypt) messages to you with a copy of your public key. Then, when you receive a message, you can unlock (decrypt) it with your private key.

Just like with the padlock-key example, this only works if no-one else has a copy of your private key, and your friends only lock/encrypt using your padlock/public key.

PGP and Top Secret

When you sign up for the game, you can now add your public key. Each character in the game has their own public key, so you can receive and send encrypted messages to them using PGP.

If this all sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry! You can still play using regular, unencrypted emails - PGP is completely optional.

For me though, PGP gives the most authentic and immersive experience - there’s something thrilling about sending a receiving real secret messages.

Now you can experience that feeling playing Top Secret.


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