Police Called On Game Creator Over Nuclear War Diagrams

Police Called On Game Creator Over Nuclear War Diagrams
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A game called Global Thermonuclear War that uses Google Maps to simulate devastating conflicts between nations? Oh boy. But nobody could ever believe plans for a video game were a roadmap to actual, factual nuclear warfare, right? Yeaaaah, about that.

The Guardian brings word that video game developer Henry Smith nearly found himself in hot water after his letting agency (a form of real estate agency in the UK) informed police of his plans for Global Thermonuclear War, which took the form of diagrams on white boards in his home.

As part of a routine inspection, an agent had seen the white boards — which depicted a sloppily scrawled map of the US and the USSR, with words like “launch site,” “explosion”, and “blast radius” prominently featured — and decided this man in a small rented house was a matter of national (or at least local) security.

Smith, understandably, was mortified:

“At first I was ridiculously frightened by the whole thing. When they said they’d told the police I absolutely bricked it. I ran home to check if the police had raided the house or something. It was definitely very frightening to think that the police had a report in their system alleging that I was up to something suspicious involving nuclear warheads. Knowing how the police here deal with suspected terrorists, I was worried they’d do a dawn raid or worse. It was genuinely scary for a while.”

Smith was frightened that the misunderstanding might have the boys and girls in blue banging down his door, but so far nobody’s actually acted on the call. He’s extremely thankful for that, and — even though the whole situation was a little ludicrous — doesn’t bear the letting agency any ill will for just wanting to act “responsibly.”

But it was pretty dumb. Smith does not deny that:

“Their judgment has let them down for sure. Nobody is planning an intercontinental ballistic missile attack by Russia on Washington from a rented house in a Bristol suburb. And definitely not by drawing their missile trajectory freehand on a whiteboard.”

“And even if they were, they wouldn’t have left those whiteboards out on the pre-agreed day of a visual inspection.”

Thank goodness the Bristol police’s judgment — at least, in this case — seems a little less… lacking.


  • With the price of rent these days you basically need to sell your nuclear war plans just to make payment each week.

  • Seems pretty damned pointless to be slaving away on a game when your players already know that the only winning move is not to play.

    • Good question. First thought is that maybe the dev considers DEFCON’s stylistic simplification of geography to be a factor in abstracting the player from emotional impact. (With a very stark and – to my mind, satisfying – contrast provided by the mournful soundtrack, ambient crying and coughing, and score by ‘millions killed’.) Like, maybe they figured that nuke strikes might have more of an impact if there was some real-world geography on display, google-maps-style, bringing the reality that, “This is our planet, this is what we’re risking,” home.

      Problem there is, I don’t recognize 99.9-recurring% of the planet by satellite, and it’d only take a single strike to one-shot the part I do recognize.

      Who knows, maybe the emotional impact will still be there, maybe one of those things you can’t gauge well until it hits testing.

  • Why do I get the feeling this poor bastard will now have a dossier at Mi6 that will result in his phones being tapped for the next 20 years.

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