Beneath The Watchful Eyes

Beneath The Watchful Eyes

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Beneath The Watchful Eyes
Designer: Ben Henley
Players: 8-12
Stuff required: Wireless cameras, monitors/laptop, r/c vehicles, possibly spotlights and lasers
Crew required: Three-four
Preparation: Thirty minutes
Time required: 45 minutes
Place required: An urban area or building with a fair amount of foot traffic (plaza, hotel, cultural venue etc.)
Activities: Surveillance
This is an untested game. Its rules are written, but it hasn't been tested out yet.
This game is made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons licence. (What does this mean?)

One team surveills an area, while another team tries to accomplish goals without being spotted.

The setup

The "state" team stays in a control room, using an array of surveillance devices to monitor a designated High-Security Zone (HSZ). The state team should be able to bring its devices to bear on 90% of the zone (with a few blind spots) - but they should only be able to see a limited part of it at any one time.

The "subversives" team starts outside the HSZ, but must accomplish missions which all take place within the high-security zone.

Ideally, the teams will assemble and be briefed separately, so the state players don't know see who the subversive players are. This could be accomplished at a ticketed Sandpit by handing out stickers for a different, fake game to the subversives (obviously the description of the game would reflect what the subversives will actually be doing, but written in such a way that the state team shouldn't guess it's the same game... the state players should initially believe the subversives are actors, not other players).

Both teams have a map showing the extent of the HSZ.

In addition, two or three "security guards" patrol the HSZ, distinguished by SECURITY armbands and caps. They are neutral volunteers, who should know the activists by sight (maybe photographing and fingerprinting the subversives at the start of the game would be a nice touch). They are there to stop the subversive side permanently blinding all the cameras by 'arresting' anyone breaking the Anti-Subversion Laws.

Both sides have 10 minutes of planning time before the subversives can enter the zone. This lets the subversives plan while the state players learn to control the devices.

Surveillance devices

Depending on budget/technical knowhow, these could include:

  • binoculars (or a camera with zoom) and a vantage point such as a balcony (or a pod on the London Eye, or a tethered balloon)
  • a simple webcam or wireless camera (you can get home security cameras which output to a TV frequency)
  • a camera which can pan, tilt and maybe zoom under remote control
  • sensors which alert the cops when someone walks along a particular corridor (which is not visible on camera)
  • a wireless mic
  • a wireless mic mounted on a remote control car (which they can steer by watching it on one of the cameras)
  • a remote control car with both mic and cam
  • a cam and/or mic mounted on a remote control blimp (either free-floating indoors, or tethered if outdoors)
  • an R/C helicopter with cam (but probably too hard to control, and battery life is v limited)
  • a homebrew UAV

All sensors should be prominently labelled in yellow with eye symbols and slogans like "FOR YOUR SAFETY". Anyone using binoculars or a camera must wear a yellow high-vis vest. The remote control car could still be inconspicuous if parked under a bench.

Counter-surveillance devices

The subversives could have anti-surveillance devices, including:

  • laser pointers (for dazzling fixed cams)
  • high-power halogen lanterns (should be bright enough to dazzle cameras temporarily, but battery life will not last the whole game)
  • fog guns/smoke sprays
  • white noise generators


The subversives team gets points for carrying out a list of missions.

The missions include things like:

  • Retrieve a briefcase hidden at a certain location within the zone
  • Stick up posters in designated areas
  • Meet a 'contact' (a conspicuously dressed actor) and pass him a note
  • Photograph a certain item
  • Move a large, awkward political banner from outside the playing area and stash it at a particular point inside the zone
  • Give out political leaflets to passersby (ie non-players)
  • Shout a slogan or a speech to passersby
  • Recruit a passerby by persuading them to come and have a coffee/ice cream/drink with the player

The state team tries to see the subversives doing these. Depending on the exact setup and increasing order of difficulty for the state side, they could be required to:

  • pick the subversives out of a lineup at the end of the game (where the other members of the lineup are other players)
  • fill in a report explaining which subversive suspect carried out which mission and at what time
  • photograph/screengrab subversives actually doing their missions and submit them as evidence

The Anti-Subversion Laws

These forbid:

  • touching any Surveillance Device or causing it to be touched by a liquid or a solid (e.g. throwing water or rocks)
  • moving or holding solid objects in front of a Surveillance Device
  • covering one's face in public using a mask or scarf or balaclava (should be written to allow clever use of, say, an umbrella)

Anyone caught doing any of the above by a security guard goes to 'jail' for the rest of the game.

Minor infringements are:

  • taking photographs in a public place
  • using an anti-surveillance device

Anyone caught doing those two is taken away for five minutes of questioning, then released back into the game.

The subversives should be given a pamphlet explaining their rights under these laws, which should be designed to look as plausible as possible. If you wanted to get really political, maybe a pamphlet explaining real but crazy laws like the prohibition on taking photos of the police which could be "of use to terrorists".