Surveillance has proven to be good fodder for games. In Touch Tone, a fictional yet fathomable government has deputized its citizenry to spy on their peers by solving puzzles and decoding encryption keys and codes to access private data. Nothing to Hide applies the logic to your every movement. It is a virtual Panopticon that requires your location, likeness, and actions to be visible at all times. Attempts at evasion are futile. Privacy is dead. There are no secrets anymore. These titles use video game mechanics to make the logic of surveillance explicit. Their metaphors may even be too successful insofar as they make privacy violations appear to be common knowledge when they are actually shrouded in secrecy.
Enter Project Seen, a typeface that automatically censors so-called “spook words,” that are tracked by the likes of the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ. Here, for instance, is the previous paragraph printed in Seen:
That’s a fair amount of censorship—and I didn’t even mention any specific agencies or nations, virtually all of which are automatically censored by Seen. Which is not to say that Seen is entirely inflexible: Your documents can be censored using strike-through, a form of underline that blacks out the lower half of each glyph, or the good old complete blackout. Whatever form of obscurantism you desire, Seen can provide it.
Project Seen is a valuable companion piece to the likes of Touch Tone and Nothing to Hide. Its existence helps to explain why these games are valuable. If invasions of privacy are not going to be openly discussed and documents censored in the manner Project Seen emulates, then we’re going to have to rely on the likes of Touch Tone and Nothing to Hide to spur discussions about surveillance.