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WatchDogs was a show-stopping surprise for all the attending members of E3. One of the most talked about games for the show, with a concept so eerie and yet also completely plausible, WatchDogs could turn out to be another sleeper hit from Ubisoft’s great design teams, creating original characters and concepts that change the gaming landscape for good.
At E3 2012, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot announced a new IP that have been in development for over 2 years. Its name is WatchDogs and in the most unnervingly realistic way, it’s a game about how a small select group of people spy on everyone else. And unveiling as secret as can be, fans were blown away by the hacker style gameplay as well as the lighting and gunplay elements. The question Mr. Guillemot left the audience with was “Who is really managing the world we are in” and the video that follows made everyone look at their phones with a bit of trepidation and no small amount of alarm.
The scene is set first with a woman’s voice narrating the news accompanied by ominous sounding music. She talks about how information and technology are managed. She talks about how one man was able to insert a virus that knocked out power to half a country, our country, the United States. Ten years later in 2011 the world is more advanced and therefore a central control system has been installed, able to manage entire cities at the click of a button. This could be a good thing; after all making the running of a city and its complicated budget much easier.
Yet, the concept of centralized control of traffic, transit and utilities controlled by a computer makes one wonder who controls the computer. As the voice continues to explain, the building dread comes to a boiling point as it is revealed that yet unnamed private companies control this central operating system and manipulate it to their own purposes. It is now personal data, not money or some other form of commodity, which has become the key selling point in the world. You’ve lost your individuality and are now just a number, in a growing row and column of numbers, your information harvested and sold in a digital world.
The concept is that all data is connected and through manipulation of that data, you and your world are influenced in both subtle and not so subtle ways.
Back in our reality, E3 attendees sitting in the audience were subjected to a green light scan of some kind. Creative Director of Ubisoft Montreal Jonathan Morin, goes on to say that you’ll play in an open city. Ubisoft has given you the player control of that city to use as your weapon. It may seem a strange concept, controlling a whole city as if it were a giant robot, but is that not what a city actually is? You’ll know everything about everyone in the entire city and control its functions at the literal touch of a button. That kind of power is seductive and that is what Ubisoft aims to prove.
The screen cut to a man walking down a street. Nothing wrong with that — except for the ‘creepy factor’ going through the roof as he jams phones in immediate vicinity, distracting guards at a club he needs to get into. His name is Aiden Pierce and he is out to kill a man.
Pierce could know the mental health, financial history, job, social security number and even the breakfast content of anyone he chooses to at any given moment. The concept is frightening as he scans a whole room of people, hacks an ongoing cellphone call to get the data that he needs. It’s not such a bad thing, using that sort of power to catch a bad guy, but what happens when that data is yours or your loved one’s.
Oh — and the part about wondering how a city can attack someone? Try traffic lights. How do you find your enemies? Try the thousands of camera’s that litter the city. It is not the most ethical method, having multiple people crashing their cars into one another in order to catch one man but then again, Aiden Pierce doesn’t have the time to care. He is a violent guy who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, hurting bouncers and hired gunmen to send a message to some powerful people.
So the question Ubisoft presents to gamers is, do you want this kind of man to have access to your data? Probably not, not by a long shot. The better question that Ubisoft asks you is, wouldn’t you rather be this man? Ubisoft thinks gamers will love this game and from crowd reactions, they have hit another one out of the park. With no slated release date, this game could be a long ways away but it has great potential to become another massive console and PC hit.