We all know that EA enjoys creating games as much as they love playing them. It appears EA have created a game of their own based on the World War II message encryption machine named Enigma. If you head over to the unlisted EA page, you will find a screen with five simple icons to guide your curiosity.
Of course, any would-be codebreaker who scored higher than a 0 on their ASVAB will see that the circles with the binocular and headphones icons are the only clickable items. After navigating through the login screen and into the first puzzle, you’ll be presented with eight boxes. The boxes are filled with the characters “X 0 6 R 5 R S Y” — this is a ciphertext.
The basic idea behind cryptography is that every character written in ciphertext represents a corresponding character in plaintext — the original, unencrypted message. During the Second World War, Germany’s secret messengers weakened the strength of a ciphertext by constantly using the same words in the exact same order for every message. When these weakly encrypted messages were intercepted, the repeated pattern proved an easy way for British code-breaking experts to translate seemingly scrambled communications. EA’s puzzle, however, isn’t so simple. The page only provides extremely cryptic clues, like a this picture of a partly-opened bookcase.
A little bit of internet sleuthing later, I broke the code by definitely not searching through Reddit. My precision employment of Google-Fu didn’t result in breaking into the German intelligence network, but rather revealed that I had a chance to win a trip to this year’s Gamescom convention in Germany. While a free trip to the world’s largest gaming convention is a straightforward reward, the breaking of the real Enigma code opened up an ethical dilemma.
Using the troves of decrypted messages, Allied intelligence experts were now able to piece together the German military’s movements and, therefore, would be able to outmaneuver them. The overuse of such information, however, would undoubtedly tip off the enemy to the fact that their encryption system was broken and needed to be changed.
The brain of the Enigma machine. Using this plugboard, which is located below the keys, was used to swap letters. It supported up to 13 connections — here, only two, ‘S’ with ‘O’ and ‘A’ with ‘J’, have been made.
Unfortunately for American gamers, it appears that only those in certain regions are eligible to have their gamescom-related travel expenses covered by EA. In a way, this situation also mirrors what happened historically during the war. The US was largely excluded from the highly secretive, British-led, Enigma code-breaking process.
This is region restriction is only good news if you happen to already be stationed in South Korea, Japan, England, or Australia, otherwise you’ll need to pull out some real code-breaking alongside some serious cash to afford entry to the already nearly sold-out convention.