The fight between good vs. evil is a tried and true standard of video games, and Watch Dogs 2 is no exception. In the game, Marcus and DedSec face off against the corporations that pervade every aspect of society. But in reality, the game isn’t that black and white.
Watch Dogs 2 offers access to some cool new features. See something you can’t reach? Use the new RC car and drone. Cars in the way? Just hack them to clear a path. Need that guard gone? Call in the cops or a criminal gang. And that’s where things start to get a little grey.
You can certainly use stealth when conducting an operation. All it takes is patience, and making good use of the devices available to you. But one mistake, and all bets are off.
On the other hand, you can easily clear out an area with just a few phone calls. Target a hostile, and you’ll get the option to call in the police to falsely arrest them, or paint them as a target for a rival gang. More often than not, what follows is a massive shootout. At this point, you can keep calling in cops or criminals if you feel one side needs help, or just let the bullets keep flying and wait for them to thin each other out.
In most video games, NPCs are just nameless faces. Unless otherwise specified, you have no incentive to keep them alive. If they’re shooting at you, all the more reason.
But a returning feature to Watch Dogs 2 is the profiler. Whip out your phone, and in NetHack mode, you can see details about any NPC nearby. Their name, occupation, income, and a fun fact about them.
And suddenly, it all changes. The NPCs are no longer nameless; in a way, they’re made just that little bit more real. Those two patrol officers you just sent into a gang stronghold? One just enrolled their kid into preschool, and the other is set for a desk job. Or that guard you targeted? He’s in remission from cancer.
Personally, I felt that I now had to bear responsibility for my actions. Yes, it’s just a video game. But that doesn’t take away the fact that it feels more real, and you’re playing with lives (albeit virtual). And it’s important to note that though the game is a work of fiction, such scenarios as the one above could happen in real life.
So I did what I could do to help. I often had to work my way around, tasing the occasional person to save them from dying in the firefight.
Note: The following contains details about a side operation in the game.
One particular side op in the game forces you to actually evaluate NPCs. At some point, you will come across a fellow hacker who will help you gain access to a bank’s ATM system. You will get to carry out several hacks, and in each case, play around with a person trying to withdraw cash.
The profiler comes in very handy here. With access to their income and occupation, you can choose what to do with their money. Sure, you could let them carry out their transaction as normal, or even receive a cash bonus. But what if they’re an arrogant CEO with cash to burn? Donate their money to charity. Flag them as a fraud. Even cancel their bank account entirely.
I consider Watch Dogs 2 to be an exercise in morality. While you’re provided with the tools to sneak and hack your way around, there is no penalty for doing things loud. Trick rival gangs into taking each other out, or take up arms directly.
DedSec, the group that Marcus is affiliated with, are a group of talented hackers. In their fight to rid society of big brother’s watchful eye, there is bound to be the occasional casualty. But the fact that there aren’t penalties for instigating mass shootouts is of concern. While it may be out of line with DedSec’s modus operandi, it raises the question of “what if?”
Let’s consider for a moment that DedSec does work like that. No concern for innocent bystanders getting caught in the crossfire, or the impact that it has on those involved, their families, and the community. In trying to bring down corporations, do they become the very terror group that those corporations seek to stop?
Sure, Watch Dogs 2 is a work of fiction. But the technology in the game all exist, or will in the near future. And the ways that they can be exploited? I’m sure someone will come up with a way to do so. From what I’ve seen, the game paints some very possible and scary scenarios, ones that can very well happen in the real world.