Playing the Good Guy: How Watch_Dogs Taught Me What a Sanctimonious Jerk I am

How playing Watch_Dogs like a good guy taught me an uncomfortable truth about myself

We got our hands on Watch_Dogs (check out the review here) and I spent the weekend getting to know Aiden Pearce and the Chicago of the future. Given all we knew about the game, I was expecting a lot of themes on privacy, security, and cyber stability, but what I wasn’t expecting was what Watch_Dogs taught me about myself. 

Recommended Videos

The Game Encourages You to Choose a Play Style

Watch_Dogs offers a fair amount of flexibility in the way you choose to play. Gamers can go all GTAV up in future Chicago, running over pedestrians, shooting large guns at police, and generally wrecking the place, or take on the cityscape a la Batman – saving citizens, taking down bad guys, and becoming beloved/feared. As your reputation meter leans farther into the positive, you’ll hear flattering news stories about yourself, as well as benefitting from a notable lack of citizens calling the cops on you for simple transgressions like, say, stealing their Porsche. 

But things really get interesting when you catch yourself taking it a step further… 

Or, in my case, when you realize you’ve  changed your behavior with no rewards or prompting from the game whatsoever.

Due to the big brother surveillance themes of Watch_Dogs, you have much deeper insights into the NPCs around you than usual.  You can sneak around Skyrim all day a-stabbin’ and a-stealin’, but unless you happen to overhear some untimely character dialogue, you never have to feel anything about it. 

In contrast, in any area of Chicago where you’ve hacked a ctOS tower you can walk down the street and peer directly into the profiles of everyone who passes by. Stealing money while casually strolling around is a key component of the game, and potential marks help you out by not only appearing in blue, but also telling you how much they have in their bank account. 

Unfortunately while accessing that handy information, you also access personal information.

Sweet! I can hack that guy over there and he has… Let’s see… $29,438 in his account. Score! Oh wait… He’s a single father of 3 and he just filed for unemployment? Uhhhh…

Thieving Got All Personal and Moral, and at First I was Pretty Proud of Myself

I found myself hacking towers in wealthier parts of town, or more crime riddled areas so I could target criminals and the wealthy

I found myself not stealing from people in rough situations, or even just people who seemed pretty good.

Working for a non-profit? Pass.

Working mom? Pass.

Just graduated from high school and applied for college scholarship? Pass.

I discovered I was weighing the balance of the money I would receive against how ‘good’ ‘bad’ or ‘neutral’ a person was. I purposefully began hacking towers in wealthier parts of town, or more crime riddled areas, so I could target criminals and the wealthy; people I felt were either not entitled to or less likely to miss their precious imaginary cash. Not gonna lie, when I realized I’d started doing this, I felt pretty good about myself.

‘Wow, I’m even a good person in virtual reality when there are no consequences for misbehaving. Go me!’

Until I realized what an Insufferably Judgemental Jerkwad I’d Become

I was strutting down the street on my way to avert some crime, admiring the sheer moral awesomeness that was my Aiden Pearce while getting ready to steal $284 from a drug dealer with my cell phone, when a sudden realization brought my baseball-capped Robin Hood to a halt:

I know exactly enough about these people to think I can judge them. In reality, I know nothing at all. 

Suddenly each steal felt like an impossible moral quandary, like some sort of horrid Rubik’s Cube of utterly unknowable factors

I was making decisions the same way many of us do every day – with a mere fraction of the information about the people I was passing by. Using the less than a sentence, ctOS felt like the most pertinent information about a person, and I was judging them. Maybe that guy is dealing drugs because his mom needs money for chemo. Maybe that single dad is single because he put a hit out on his wife when she asked for a divorce. Maybe that girl who just applied for a scholarship cheated on every test she ever took, or maybe she had to overcome dyslexia to pass high school by the skin of her teeth.

I didn’t know. I couldn’t know.

There wasn’t enough information, even in this surveillance-happy city, to really understand and accurately judge an individual – much less in the time it took to approach them on the street. Suddenly each steal felt like an impossible moral quandary, like some sort of horrid Rubik’s Cube of utterly unknowable factors.

To Hell with It

After suffering through a few moments of angst, I reminded myself it was just a game and began stealing with slightly freer abandon (though grandmothers saving for Christmas presents are still safe in my Chicago). But Watch_Dogs did remind me that no matter what you think you know about someone, there’s always more to them than you know… and sometimes that information could change everything.

So don’t be a jerk.

*Image from Stickitthere on Etsy


GameSkinny is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Best Sims 4 CC From Pinterest
Sims character lounging with menus for more traits and interactions
Read Article 10 Best Food and Cooking Mods for Stardew Valley
Farmer holding cake in the field
Read Article Best Quality of Life Features Coming in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
The Witness's fortress in The Pale Heart in Destiny 2
Read Article The 10 Best Games Like Fallout
Read Article Is Ma June in the Fallout Games? Dale Dickey’s Character, Explained
Ma June, played by Dale Dickey, talking to Lucy in the Amazon Fallout TV Series.
Related Content
Read Article Best Sims 4 CC From Pinterest
Sims character lounging with menus for more traits and interactions
Read Article 10 Best Food and Cooking Mods for Stardew Valley
Farmer holding cake in the field
Read Article Best Quality of Life Features Coming in Destiny 2: The Final Shape
The Witness's fortress in The Pale Heart in Destiny 2
Read Article The 10 Best Games Like Fallout
Read Article Is Ma June in the Fallout Games? Dale Dickey’s Character, Explained
Ma June, played by Dale Dickey, talking to Lucy in the Amazon Fallout TV Series.
Author
Amy White
Former Editor in Chief at GameSkinny. I am the Gray Fox. Questions, comments, feedback? Bring it. Amy.White (at) GameSkinny.com