Three years is a long time in politics. It's even longer for video games.
Released 2016 at Ubisoft Watchdogs 2 told the story of the San Francisco chapter of DedSec. DedSec, a disillusioned hacker collective, was determined to expose government corruption, to fight for the underprivileged masses, and to look damn good. DedSec consisted of three colored people, an introverted hacker with Asperger's Syndrome and a bisexual anarchist in a mask. Among other things, DedSec managed to kill a tech bro billionaire who valued money and power over human life.
In the course of history, Watchdogs 2 The default template for open-world crime games produced a youthful appeal full of unexpected, sincere bravery. It was a game that was so popular with gamers that a wealth of fan art, slash fiction, and unbridled appreciation for these handfuls of characters are still alive and online three years later.
However, it was also a game that was released a week after Donald Trump's election as President of the United States. Possible discussions that may not have materialized Watchdogs 2 at this time were immediately overshadowed by ubiquitous real events.
At the beginning of this month, an estimated 75,000 people went to the streets of London to protest against the visit of the current US president. Supported by a grim 19% approval for Trump in the UK, the Londoners made it clear that he was not welcome in their city and asked him, as a protest sign put it, "fuck off please". As expected, Trump denied that these demonstrators even existed and wrote them down as "false news".
That is to be expected now – the fact that Trump denies reality. That's one thing we all feel comfortable with somehow. It makes us laugh when we want to run screaming on the street. However, exhaustion is a powerful sedative and we tend to focus on entertainment and video games to manage our daily lives while increasing the number of people around us. Except the watchdog Franchise forces us to confront them instead.
At the E3 2019 in Los Angeles Ubisoft presented the third part of his hacker franchise. Watch Dogs: Legion, In the near future, the timeline of the game will set a version of London where the UK has already dealt with the consequences of "Brexit" and separated itself from the European Union. Subsequently, the worst-case scenario has occurred. London is now an oppressive dystopia living under the cruel boot of private security firm Albion. Citizens are in cages, people who oppose the government are disappearing, and fear is inexorable. It's like now, but with a bit cooler technology.
Times have changed both in society and in video games since the genre of the "Open World Crime Sim" has become popular.
In terms of storytelling, this idea is not groundbreaking. If this was a movie or TV series, this would be answered with a shrug. Yes, dystopia in the near future extrapolating real life, blah blah – we've seen it before. On the other hand, such topics are still extremely rare for a video game. Clear concepts that are so close together in this current political climate are usually avoided by all but the smallest independent studios. For a listed company like Ubisoft, which has an annual operating income in excess of two hundred million dollars, this type of video game seems to be a quiet revolution.
The aforementioned DedSec still exists in the world of watchdogbut has now become global. Marketed as "Play as anyone", legionThis time, the player can create a separate chapter of DedSec. You can choose the type of person you want to rebel against authority instead of getting specific characters from the beginning. It remains to be seen if this gameplay and its storylines get carried away by players as hard as the San Francisco kids. In any case, DedSec will continue to bring to power the struggle that is no longer a corrupt technology company in this futuristic London, but the government agency itself.
Times have changed both in society and in video games since the genre of the "Open World Crime Sim" has become popular. Dive into mainstream consciousness with rock stars Grand Theft Auto III In 2001, the number of video games released annually with similar structure is still high. Play in the perspective of a third person, travel to one place and get a mission with the freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want. Dozens of games have cloned this framework and some have improved it. However, there is one standard feature of this genre that has become so inherent that its effect has been largely forgotten.
In three games, the Watch Dogs franchise has led the authority function through the most intriguing changes.
The traditional "wanted level" feature in open world games essentially represents the police. When the player commits enough random crime outside of missions, typically in the form of murder, an authority person appears and does everything in his power to stop it. As a precautionary measure to contain an endless massacre cycle that ignores the missions and possibly completes the game itself, the desired level has changed over the years. From a visible threat in Grand Theft Auto III ridiculous aliens in Holy Series IV, The function of a ruling force has slowly taken a back seat and has gradually become the least interesting aspect of these games. It now seems to be a commitment, rather than a truly enduring purpose within game design.
In the real city where Watchdog Legion set, the use of dystopia technology is not a fantasy. The London City Police were criticized for this the use of the gangs matrix, a predictive tool for machine learning. To identify and monitor citizens suspected of being on the brink of gang violence, the matrix lists children under the age of thirteen, with 80% of those monitored referred to as "African-Caribbean" and 8% " white Europeans "are.
When the leader of the free world approves and promotes structural violence, the thin blue line of the law inevitably becomes blurred and blood-soaked.
Over the course of three games, the watchdog The franchise has led the authority function through the most intriguing changes. During the first game, the police are a largely avoidable hassle as the watchful Aiden Pearce demands a bloody revenge on the city of Chicago.
in the Watchdogs 2This concept changed dramatically based on the characters. Marcus and the rest of DedSec were determined to fight corruption, but because of their personalities, emotions, and conversations, the murder felt incredibly wrong for these little kids. A largely pacifist playthrough with 3D-printed taser pistols and billiard balls on ropes has become much more enjoyable in the story. The ability to lead innocent lives was still there – simple I really felt wrong, More than ever before. Organic is the police in Watchdogs 2 was virtually nonexistent and for the first time the idea of a desired level in an open world game seemed essentially pointless.
The majority of London police do not carry firearms. in the Watch Dogs: LegionTheir virtual counterparts are portrayed as reluctant members of Albion, but essentially their powers have been withdrawn. Any purpose they once had as a deterrent to this genre of video game has now been replaced by the new repressive regime in London.
The one constant in open-world games is no longer the obligatory inhibition it once was. Now it is the enemy.
The goal of this component in these games has not changed due to natural industry design trends, but because of the world around us. Starting from a significant force to be feared, this feature disappeared into irrelevant background noise and now into Watch Dogs: Legion, has become a full-blown antagonist of the game. Such a drastic change was no coincidence. The countless deaths of unarmed minorities by the police around the world and the lack of punishment of the perpetrators have dominated the news over the last three years.
Even Trump himself has the police encouraged brutality in his speeches and apologized for war crimes, which fits in with a man who still has his 30-year call for the execution of five boys in New York City. Such twisted beliefs of the world's most illustrious leader invaded the minds of the worst of humanity in 2019, giving them the courage to speak out in already volatile societies around the world. When the leader of the free world approves and promotes structural violence, the thin blue line of the law inevitably becomes blurred and blood-soaked.
The overwhelming distrust of the police towards the world has become so widespread in modern life that it has finally entered a medium of entertainment on a large budget that has largely ignored the actions of real colleagues in the past. When looking at the video game industry, Watch Dogs: Legion is an anomaly, but if it is considered part of the world we live in, it not only makes sense but feels overdue. How Art Imitates Life legion represents the last nail in the casket for what players know as a standard search level in video game thrillers. The one constant in open-world games is no longer the obligatory inhibition it once was. Now it is the enemy.
Executives of Ubisoft have consistently stated that they are unable to make political statements with their games. During this claim, a vague lease with franchisees could be given as Ghost Recon or The division, the existence of watchdog Series, and especially now with legionNot only to make such statements appear as a complete denial of reality, but to act against them as a listed company.
This constant separation between the CEOs and the story themes that are present in their games is not good to look at. If this goes on, the two theories are that senior executives are not interested in supporting their development studios, or they are somehow convinced that the only products of their own business are Rabbids and Just dance gains more traction, Either way, it not only reflects Ubisoft badly, but also a franchise that has successfully trodden its own path in predicting the future of society and making significant progress in its own genre.
Thanks to technology, the view of our society today has changed dramatically in general since 2016. The terms "alt-right", "fake news", "alternative facts" and others are no longer monstrous, they are just concepts that are interwoven into the boring stuff of our reality. Structural injustices are on the agenda, cruel governments and corrupt technology companies are no longer responding to anyone, and we watch as everything happens open as we browse our social media feeds.
The kind of arbitrary brutality that has always prevailed in modern civilization has become increasingly prominent, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the privileged ruling class to ignore.
Video games have also changed because the reflection of life through art is a trend that is inevitable, such as death, taxes and revolution. Of course Watch Dogs: Legion exist. We can only hope that the presentation of future London until its publication in 2020 is more fictitious than factual.
David Rayfield writes good things in good places like Gamespot, Kotaku, Medium and … elsewhere. Tweet it at @raygunbrown