Historical Secret Agents Inspire and Influence Gaming’s Best Spies

Stealth Video Game Alekhine's Gun
Alekhine’s Gun follows the story of Agent Alekhine, a KGB agent working with the CIA to uncover a global anti-government conspiracy.

Secret agents are crucial to a nation’s security, but they’re also excellent fodder for fiction. Because FPS video games are so often set during wartime, traits, skill sets, and situations from these historical figures often make their way into the games. Infusing a fictitious plotline with real tidbits from the past can create compelling original narratives that shine in historical games. But the actual history of some of the world’s greatest covert operatives is just as fascinating as the fictional stories, and these secret agents exemplify the power of both history and fiction. 

Secret Agents Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker used her skills and reputation as a dancer to serve the French Resistance during World War II.

Josephine Baker Sang, Danced, and Served the French Resistance

Josephine Baker is remembered for a lot of things—she was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, a committed member of the Civil Rights Movement, and a muse for art icons like Picasso, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. But she was also a crucial member of the French Resistance in World War II, using her role as a popular entertainer to obtain information from high-ranking German, Japanese, and Italian officials and pass it on to the Resistance. Because she could freely travel the world for her performances, Baker was able to go places most others could not—by writing secret messages on her sheet music in invisible ink, Baker transmitted details about troop movements and other crucial information to England. Her service to the French Resistance earned her the full extent of French military honor at her funeral—making her the only American-born woman in French history to receive such treatment.

Secret Agents The Saboteur
Though Sean Devlin’s spywork is more high-octane than Josephine Baker’s, The Saboteur also connects an unusual spy with the work of the French Resistance. Image Source: EA.

The Saboteur Explores Unconventional Spywork in Nazi-Occupied Paris 

While The Saboteur is quite different from the real story of Josephine Baker, both the historical truth and this fictional story share some similar elements. Drawn into a conflict that isn’t his own, protagonist Sean Devlin ends up a surprising recruit for the French Resistance after his friend is killed by Nazis. Though his mission is one primarily of personal revenge, Devlin’s cause aligns with the Resistance and, on the path to vindication, he aids them in ridding Paris of Nazi influence. Represented by drab, colorless sections of the game with high suspicion, areas of Nazi occupation become colorful again through his actions, including using stealth and disguises to infiltrate forbidden areas. Though he’s not a secret agent of the traditional sort, Devlin represents a spy who joins the ranks out of necessity, making him an interesting exploration of World War II’s heroes and, like Josephine Baker, his efforts show the important work that can be done in wartime by non-military people.

Secret Agents Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg sold secrets to the Soviet Union, in part kicking off the wave of anti-communist paranoia during the Cold War.

The Rosenbergs’ Secret-Selling Incited American Anti-Communist Sentiment

The Cold War is known for being a secretive, suspicious war fueled by paranoia. Part of this paranoia was the fear of communism—as the Soviet Union operated under a communist government, the US feared that sympathizers would wreak havoc inside its own borders. That fear wasn’t baseless; Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found guilty of spying for the Soviet government, including passing information about the atomic bomb to America’s enemies. Though the Soviet Union and US were allies during the Second World War, they did not share details of the Manhattan Project. Julius headed a spy ring that passed information to the Soviet Union under the advisement of NKGB Case Officer Alexandr Feklisov. After his arrest and the announcement of the intended death sentence, Julius claimed that the US was using the case to drum up fear and support for the Korean War—whether or not the claim was true, the arrest and execution of the Rosenbergs kicked off a flurry of anti-communist hysteria that heightened the fearful climate of the Cold War.

Stealth Video Game Alekhine's Gun
Because Agent Alekhine is a Soviet agent during the Cold War, his CIA colleagues are suspicious of his motives and loyalties.

Alekhine’s Gun Uses Anti-Soviet Suspicion to Create a Compelling Story

Though Alekhine’s Gun is a fictional story, it plays heavily off of the climate created by the Cold War and the communist paranoia that resulted from the Rosenbergs’ execution. Agent Alekhine is a KGB assassin and counterintelligence agent employed by the CIA to help find the root of an anti-government conspiracy threatening the world’s peace. But as a KGB agent, he’s constantly under suspicion from his peers—under the Red Scare, Alekhine’s motivations matter little because he so clearly represents the enemy to many. But the threat Alekhine and the CIA are up against is bigger than their prejudices, meaning they have to work together despite the potential for dangerous disagreements. These prejudices play a major role in the plot, as Alekhine must contend with not only the threat facing the CIA, but also the suspicion of his fellow agents, unsure of who is a true ally and who is only playing one.

Real and Fictional Secret Agents Inspire Fascinating Narratives

Historical and fictional secret agents weave stories of intrigue and deception that make fascinating tales regardless of their truth. Because the life of a spy is cloaked in secrecy, there’s always an element of untruth to it—a spy’s discovery often means death, creating high-stakes narratives that captivate audiences in history, video games, and other media. While all of these stories are different, you can find similarities between them, as the real life versions inform the fictional ones, turning history into absorbing, excellent fiction.

Alekhine’s Gun uses the paranoia of the Cold War to create a stunning story of espionage, conspiracy, and stealth action. Order your copy today!