• Nothing To Hide reminds us how accepting we are of total surveillance
02.21.14

Nothing To Hide reminds us how accepting we are of total surveillance

Why do you need privacy—do you have something to hide? That's the rationale behind the total-surveillance-accepting society in anti-stealth game Nothing To Hide.

It's a game that's more of a reality check than a warning of what's to come. Hitting "Play" at the menu screen takes you to "The Wall"—the game's dominant form of social media—which is laid out just like Tumblr (or Twitter). In fact, I had looked away while the game loaded, and upon seeing this vertically scrolling series of posts I thought I was actually on Tumblr. My reaction was to flick through the rest of the tabs I had open, searching for the game. I smirked when I realized my mistake.

Nothing To Hide may be a slightly far-fetched exaggeration of global surveillance, but its fiction hits a lot closer to the situation we're in now than Orwell's 1984 does. That is to say: we're not fighting against being monitored but broadcasting ourselves constantly, unashamedly, and totally. It's part of our daily lives.

its fiction hits a lot closer to the situation we're in now than Orwell's 1984 does. 

Poor Poppy Gardener has grown up not knowing a life with any private thoughts. Her father is running in an upcoming election and her frowning is effecting his chances. He begs for her to smile and to post pictures of it on The Wall, at least 400 a day.

"Please, Poppy?" he begs. "I don't want the voters to think I'm a bad parent."

Even this begging isn't private. That's why I'm reading it. I'm scanning The Wall just like the rest of the fiction's population.

Poppy's reaction is to sneak away in the dark of the night, not because she's fed up with her dad's begging, but because she knows that her father stands a better chance if she runs away. The idea that what's to blame is the total and voluntary surveillance isn't given a second's thought.

The result of running off sees Poppy working through a series of levels in which she must constantly stay in the view of a camera. If she doesn't, three darts instantly pierce her, either knocking her unconscious, or worse. Only criminals hide. Harder puzzles see you having to pick up the cameras, placing them on moving walkways, and juggling them across the carpets, upon which they do not work (it's a bug, apparently).

The puzzles mirror Poppy's living existence. If you're asking yourself, "How the hell am I supposed to do this?," then you're asking the right question. This isn't a game for Poppy; this is how she lives her life, so it's no wonder she gains a desire to rebel over the course of the demo.

Funny, isn't it? By forcing people to prove their innocence through constant surveillance a criminal is created out of rebellion.

You can support Nothing To Hide through its crowdfunding campaign until March 12th. You can play the demo in your browser.