Watch Dogs, NSA and why more games should address contemporary social/political issues

By Ural Garrett , Updated Jun 10, 2013 11:11 AM EDT
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It's obvious that next week during E3, Ubisoft's biggest new project on the floor will undoubtedly be Watch Dogs. The open world game takes place in an alternate version of Chicago where computers essentially run the city. Interestingly enough, sensitive information on citizens and activities are readily available for multiple purposes. Players will step in the role as Aiden Pearce who can pretty much hack into the city's central computer system to complete objectives. That means hacking into people's phones as a way to gain information on bank data, medical history and affiliations. 

Last year's E3 reveal of Watch Dogs felt like a nice evolutionary take on sandbox structor that Grand Theft Auto propagated so many years ago. The Big Brother take on things felt cool and slightly original in contrast to many other contemporary titles. Most importantly, it feels like another great quality title from the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry developers. 

However, Watch Dog just moves me in the wrong way and it's not Ubisoft's fault at all. 

News of the National Security Agency and FBI taps into American citizen's private security through mining data from over 50 companies including Apple and Google is what bothers me. Code-named PRISM, citizen's information consisting of audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, social media information have all been collected in the name of "counter terrorism." 

This isn't the first time Ubisoft has taken on sensitive topics, one could look to its Assassin's Creed series for verification. What Watch Dog has inadvertently done is tackled a serious issue with a big issue that's becoming near and dear to many Americans. Interesting, considering Ubisoft is a French publisher. 

Could Ubisoft be harboring subversive, anti-American sentiment? Leave it to Fox News, yes but they're irrelevant. 

Developers have tried to tackle recent news before. In January, Bristol based developer The News had their free strategy game based on the recent war in Syria was removed from Apple's App Store entitled Endgame: Syria. The News even have games that take on child labor and pro-animal conservation.  

Series like Metal Gear Solid and Bioshock have dealt with heavy issues but mainly in abstract. Games like Watch Dogs and Endgame: Syria feel based in the now which leads to a better emotional connect. Are developers getting bolder or is the industry on the verge of fully maturing? At this point, it could be anything. 

After all, it's just entertainment, right?

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