SimCity is so realistic. That’s probably why, in SimCity 4, you can mod in a vestige of America’s current surveillance state, 33 Thomas Street, New York, NY, which just yesterday was outed as a probable NSA surveillance site.
SimCity is all about managing the less convenient aspects of life. Road planning, earthquake management and government-sanctioned mass-scale privacy invasions are just a part of living. So why not just lean into it with your SimCity game? Right?
Yesterday, The Intercept published an investigation on 33 Thomas Street, AKA the AT&T Long Lines Building, and concluded that it isn’t just 29 floors of shady telecommunications goings-on. “It also appears to be one of the most important National Security Agency surveillance sites on U.S. soil — a covert monitoring hub that is used to tap into phone calls, faxes, and internet data,” reporters Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke wrote in “The NSA’s Spy Hub in New York, Hidden in Plain Sight“.
Code-named TITANPOINTE, which couldn’t be anything other than future fodder for a bad stealth/action game, the skyscraper has apparently targeted the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations and 38 other countries. The Intercept notes that several of these countries are allies of the United States.
Maybe your SimCity game isn’t on the international espionage scale of things, but that’s where good ol’ imagination kicks in. Will managing wire-tapping infrastructure be a feature in the next SimCity?
In SimCity 4, the TITANPOINT building is unlit, “the darkest Skyscraper in New York”. Only 900 players have downloaded the virtual surveillance hub into their games, probably because they just don’t have anything to hide.
Surveillance has been inspiration for a few mods. In Minecraft, security cameras are a popular add-in. After Edward Snowden’s revelations, a “mass surveillance thriller game” called Need to Know launched a now-successful Kickstarter. In it, you can either “stand up for privacy” or “help create an unstoppable police state”.
Seeing it, Snowden noted that “Art imitates life”.