Monday, June 15, 2015

Interactive Friction: Watch_Dogs: Episode 4: Bad Boy... 17?

In this episode, I poke fun at Sam's usernames.

We spend most of this episode complaining about this game's setting, and for good reason. Watch_Dogs straddles this uncomfortable line between a modern world and a distinctly Cyberpunk future. There are a ton of interesting concepts that they bring up in this context, like CTOS, Fixers, and cyber-terrorism. Unfortunately, it doesn't delve into ANY of these concepts.

We talk about how the gov't is using CTOS to monitor and record information on every single person in the city. Every crime, every phone call, every undocumented citizen, every raunchy or politically-charged internet post is being observed by a cold, calculating machine. Well, except for Aiden Pearce. He has super immunity because his name, face, and records are magically obscured from CTOS. That means he can do whatever he wants without fear that he's begin monitored.

There are these mercenaries called Fixers. In the digital age, these modern soldiers of fortune work for clients to pull off missions that ordinary people would have difficulty completing under the surveillance of CTOS. Except these guys are nothing more than targets for Aiden Pearce to shoot at for consequence-free violence. There's no exploring how they might be able to exploit CTOS, what makes them different from any other mercenary, or how they manage to stay off the grid. They are just amoral and objective evil people we can gun down without mercy or remorse.

This is basically the Bioshock problem. The story takes place in an objectivist's (or ultra-conservative) paradise, but we don't explore the ramifications of that. It is merely a backdrop for a different story. Watch_Dogs is much the same way. The game claims to be about the surveillance state and the dangers of being constantly monitored, but we don't go into that in any significant detail. Instead, we get a standard revenge story.

It's so disappointing to see this happen time and time again. If they had just focused on any one of these aspects, I'd be a lot more charitable. As it stands, it's get really hard to care.

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