‘Watch_Dogs’ Game, Chicago: Hack People’s Lives, Cameras Are Your Friend

Amanda Warren
Activist Post

“What will you do…with that kind of power?”

There are no words to describe a personal reaction to this extended video game preview for Watch_Dogs, available on multiple systems, May 27th, by Ubisoft. Video games, for years now, have been a great covert way to train young ones into military jobs like drone operation or crime units hunting for “domestic terrorists.” But now everyone gets a chance to be a paranoid, trenchcoat-mask-wearing hacker vigilante – there’s something hiding in everyone…Security cameras are your friends…

“For the first time, cameras are your friend. You can hack them to attract enemies and start messing around with them to bring people to where you want…,” explained the creative director, last year.

Game description, see more:

Set in Chicago, where a central network of computers connects everyone and everything, Watch_Dogs explores the impact of technology within our society. Using the city as your weapon, you will embark on a personal mission to inflict your own brand of justice. 

Chicago’s overarching network is known as the Central Operating System (ctOS), and it controls almost all of the city’s technology and information – including key data on all of the city’s residents. 

You play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. While seeking justice for those events, you’ll monitor and hack those around you by manipulating the ctOS from the palm of your hand. You’ll access omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control traffic lights and public transportation to stop the enemy… and more.


It appears that other people playing this game can also, in a sense…hack you. Other players can be lurkers too, and move into your role-playing reality game in real time and mess with you. “Anyone can be your enemy.” In this oxymoronic storyline, you enlist the help of other thug criminals for justice to help you take out the enemy, downloading everyone’s information along the way. What’s difficult to ascertain exactly, is just who is the enemy is in this rated M for Mature game.

The “Welcome to Chicago” trailer boasts:

Everything and everyone is connected. You can hack into anyone’s life. Tap their phones, their music, their accounts…Identify criminals, disrupt communications, roadways. Infiltrate private homes. 

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[…] 

You have control over a vast digital network [shows main character remotely causing city to black out]

At the same time, people will react intelligently to your choices and the police and media won’t like what you’re doing.

The character has a lengthy and tragic backstory which is supposed to explain his obsession with surveillance…

A viral marketing scheme is underway called “Digital Shadow” that, with your permission, “hacks” into your Facebook account, collects all your activity and builds a complete dossier of you, as if you were an assassin’s target, explains HuffingtonPost.

The game has been ostensibly highly anticipated for awhile, but it’s a little strange that it’s not only set in Chicago, but that the trailers for it are going viral in the wake of Chicago’s emerging pre-crime surveillance lists and the “bloody Easter” shooting spree, with the announcement of a new federal crime unit. This game isn’t exactly a marketing ploy for Chicago, which attempts to boast of questionable “steep declines” in crime rates, but is painted in the game as the backdrop for festering criminality.

Is this game supposed to give vicarious power to individuals who may feel powerless living among random crime and trusting their lives to militarized law enforcement? Can you make heads or tails of the psychologically mixed messages of a game that dehumanizes the people you manipulate or kill (but know everything about their unique identity) and says, “the city is our weapon”?

This is what I was met with when I went to the game site for more info. No thank you.

The game and character logo – nothing to see here, folks – just random symbols:

Related Activist Post Article:
Predictive Programming in “Homefront Occupation” Video Game Trailer?

Recent articles by Amanda Warren


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