Watch Dogs Paints a Terrifying Image of the Future

The setting depicted in Watch Dogs is one of a technologically oppressive future...and it's a little unnerving.
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I’ll definitely want to try Watch Dogs. At the same time, the concepts in the storyline absolutely terrify me.

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The Ubisoft development team has worked hard to create an image of a future that screams one word: Control. Control via supposed technological marvels that, rather than helping mankind, has enslaved it. And you know, when you really start to think about it, it’s a logical progression of reality.

In my estimation, we are all – at least to some extent – slaves to technology already. Therefore, when I’m playing through Watch Dogs, I might cringe at the possibility that at some point down the road, reality might begin to resemble this fiction.

What can we really do without?

It’s easy to say we could all do without social media (and trust me, we can). However, such things are merely branches on the main path, which continues to press unheedingly forward. How many people do you know could really ditch their smartphones? Undoubtedly, they’d all claim they could do it, but they probably wouldn’t respond well to such a “catastrophe.” Taking another step, how many people could realistically ditch their computers? We’ve linked so much of the world in which we live to the Internet that for many, a computer – or to be more specific, an Internet connection – has become like air.

If we don’t have it, we have difficulty functioning. Social skills have gone in the crapper, anyway, and the more we convince ourselves that things like “social” media are helping rather than crippling, the more we become like drones. It takes more to arouse and titillate us; we don’t really have much of an emotional response unless something is way over-the-top, and our attention spans have dropped to nothing.

We are willing slaves, it’s true. But some people like that. Some people think it’s the right direction.

Watch Dogs is a warning, I think…

The game probably doesn’t tackle the aforementioned issues; instead, if focuses on the concept of privacy vs. control. In that future, nothing of your life is private. The government knows it all and anyone with a particular tech-oriented skill set – like the protagonist, Aiden Pearce – can essentially own your life with the click of a button. Of course, we made that happen; it wasn’t a disease or a plague or a natural disaster that caused this to happen. We implemented such things because we believed they were necessary for the advancement of humankind. That’s the premise of the game, I believe.

What happens when our lives are not our own, anymore? Sure, one could argue that such intel is great for snagging bad guys, but what if it bleeds into the everyday lives of civilians? When we wander around the futuristic city in Watch Dogs, we’ll see people who are in danger of being completely exposed in every possible way, at any given second. I don’t know about you, but that is a horrifying possibility.

On the surface, hacking and fighting villains in a slick high-tech future setting is appealing. I get it. I just can’t help but delve a little deeper.

One can only wonder what future Watch Dogs entries will be like

Ubisoft says they want this to be a new franchise, and it probably will happen. The question is, how will it work? Will they continue along a straight sequel path? If so, what happens at the end? In a world like that, the end may come quicker than one might expect, and rebellion could be inevitable. Humans weren’t built to be partial machines, and they certainly don’t like the idea of being ruled by their own inventions. It’s not an uncommon concept, of course; The Terminator was one of the first forms of entertainment to tackle such an idea.

I just wonder where the developers intend to go from here. It’ll depend largely on the climax in Watch Dogs, I’m sure, but I have to say: I’m not convinced I’ll want to take this ride again, especially if it’s trying to mimic the downward spiral we all might be facing in reality.

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.