I’ll bet you’ve wondered if you would make a good spy. We caught up with Julian Fisher, former British intelligence officer, and one of the lead trainers from the Channel 4 series Spies, who used his spy experience to launch Your Mission, an ‘immersive role-play espionage experience’. We discussed what it really takes to become a spy.
What personal attributes make a good spy?
“An intelligence officer works with people, often in dangerous circumstances. They need to be liked and trusted by those people. So, in my opinion, the two most important character traits in an officer are empathy and self-confidence. Agents trust officers with their lives. They must be likeable.”
While discussing Julian’s credentials, a colleague interjected, “People trusted Julian with their lives. You don’t get much more qualified.” In awe of this ‘mission impossible’ man who worked in the specialist branch of the British Diplomatic Service in Africa, we wanted to know more about the immersive game he’s developed.
Do your own experiences as a spy influence Your Mission?
“Our aim is to provide as authentic an experience as possible, without giving away anything that would be negative for national security. So, yes, I draw on my own experiences and my emotional reaction to them when creating scenarios and tasks for Your Mission clients.”
Fisher has hired intelligence services alumni who have served in countries across the world. These former operatives help tailor the Your Mission scenarios with skills in counterespionage, cyber-warfare and third-party political targeting.
How do you ensure each game is crafted to suit the clients?
“By getting to know as much as we can about the clients. This is why we ask them to complete a questionnaire about their view of espionage. The responses tell us a great deal about how clients are likely to react to specific challenges.”
Each game is crafted to reflect the client’s background. Their missions are peppered with subtle references to their own past and present. Fisher says, “The best legends are as close as possible to reality.” Every action the client makes dictates their next turn, ensuring a truly immersive and bespoke experience.
What traditional espionage skills can clients expect to experience?
“Clients can expect to experience first-hand – and with little preparation – vital tradecraft skills such as brush contacts, use of encrypted communications and the thrill of a cold-approach to a potential agent. They will learn a lot about themselves in the process.”
Finding out what it’s like to live under cover is certainly appealing. Adopting an alias, developing your own story and swapping highly sensitive intelligence is a thrilling thought. Fisher affirmed that “clients are attracted to the experience because they provide a glimpse into an otherwise entirely closed world.”
Spies are romanticised in popular culture. Do you notice this fascination with your participants?
“We seem to be living in a golden age for spy fiction and spy movies. I don’t think the fascination will ever wane. The allure of a parallel world, hidden before our very eyes, that can make such a difference to national security, is obvious.”
Are you prepared for your own top secret mission? Put your spy skills to the test with this all-day game of espionage. Experience the thrill of a genuine lightning contact as used by British intelligence operatives, swap highly sensitive intelligence through dead letter drops once used by the KGB, and walk an authentic counter-surveillance route to check for followers. Find out if you have what it takes to make it in the intelligence services!