Accessibility links

Breaking News

Former Spy Adversaries Join Forces to Sell Computer Game

Washington, Feb. 7 (RFE/RL) - Two veteran spies, who for years ran the world's most powerful intelligence agencies, have put aside their ideological differences and joined forces to help create an interactive computer game called "Spycraft: The Great Game".

William E. Colby, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1973 to 1976 and Oleg D. Kalugin, Chief of Foreign Counterintelligence of the KGB from 1973 to 1980, have teamed to participate in a computer-simulated espionage adventure. The game is being produced by Activision, a company headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in London, Tokyo and Sydney. The company sells and markets products under the Activision and Infocom trade names.

"Spycraft: The Great Game," puts the player into the role of a rookie CIA operative who must infiltrate the world of international espionage to prevent the assassination of the Russian president. Colby and Kalugin portray themselves in the game, acting as consultants to the player. Both men were flown to Los Angeles to authenticate the script, written by British author and journalist James Adams, and act out their scenes for the game.

"I was given copy of the script and I read it," Kalugin told RFE/RL. "In the beginning I thought it was something really trashy, but as I plowed through the pages, I found it quite fascinating and topical because it reflects the real conditions in Russia today."

It was not the first face-to-face meeting for the two spy masters. Kalugin says that he and Colby first met five years ago at an international espionage conference in Berlin. Their paths continued to cross frequently.

"Over time we developed kind of a relationship that allowed me to entertain him in my Moscow home just several months ago," Kalugin said. "This is again a symbol of change, that I, as a KGB general, can entertain the former CIA Director at my house in Moscow and nothing happened. It is really something unbelievable. Since then, we have both been involved in this project and remain on friendly terms."

Maryanne Lataif, Director of Corporate Communications for Activision, said that both men were sought for the project because "the mix of their life experiences were so compelling."

The game will be produced on a CD-ROM, a disk which is like a computer video tape, running sound and pictures on the computer screen.

Lataif says the participation of the two men will stimulate an interest for the product. "The espionage genre is proven popular in mass media such as books and movies, but it is really unexplored in the CD-ROM market," she said. "We wanted to set the thriller in the post-Cold War era and make it authentic."

But Lataif admitted that Activision ran into some unexpected difficulties in maintaining that authenticity. She said that because of national security concerns, the Russian government does not allow aerial photographs of Red Square. Many of the game's scenes take place there.

"Sets had to be pieced together from hard-to-find photographs and using a mat-painting technique," she said. "It was important because there is a scene where the Russian president addresses a huge crowd in Red Square."

Replicating CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia was easier, she added. "We used a still photograph of the building and the CIA provided us with stock film footage of the inside."

She said for one scene, producer Andrew Goldman gathered more than 150 Russian extras at a studio in Hollywood and filmed them cheering and waving banners. Most of the scenes were shot in the studio with real-life actors.

When asked about the acting debut of Kalugin and Colby, she answered with a laugh, "They performed very well."

Kalugin was more candid: "It is difficult for me to judge my own performance, but I had fun really. I thought it was something I would never try... I did receive an invitation from the Actor's Guild of the United States to become a member, so apparently I was taken seriously enough if they made this suggestion."

Both men received an advance for their participation and will be paid royalties.

"Spycraft: The Great Game" will be in U.S. stores later this month, but Activision could not say when it would be available in Europe.