With connectivity being an ever increasing part of our lives, enabling us to chat with friends, access our bank accounts and book our holidays, it is only really a matter of time before our lives have to be dependent on being permanently connected to the grid?
Ubisoft’s latest game, Watch Dogs, is exactly that.
Set in an alternative Chicago, Watch Dogs sees mysterious hacker Aiden Pearce use his smart phone and ‘technology-know-how’ to hack onto the grid and find the man that killed his family. A bit of a cliché, granted, but the interest isn’t in the story but in the gameplay.
In a world where everything is connected and controlled by one company, there are no secrets. And as a hacker this is an opportunity too good to refuse. Whether it is intercepting phone calls, accessing security cameras or just casually stealing from cash machines, everything is there for the taking. Watch Dog’s slogan teased that we could, ‘Hack Everything’, and that is exactly what you do.
You might be looking to steal an innocent member of the public’s bank details but realize they have recently been diagnosed with cancer, or through a text message you may find someone has hidden a stash of drugs and look to dispose of them before any addicts find out. But it is not just personal electronics that are hacked. Being chased by the police? Change the lights to green and cause a pile up for the police to be stuck behind. Need to get to the top of a building unseen? Access a lift’s mainframe and ride to the top.
The world is your oyster and your smart phone is the mallet to smash open that world.
The whole premise bears a resemblance to George Orwell’s 1984 and the ever present Big Brother, but rather than oppression and fear, it gives something of a unique twist. As the protagonist of the game, you are trying to avoid being seen and instead are overseeing the onlookers yourself. It’s the classic ‘watching them watching you’ premise.
The very nature of Watch Dog’s gameplay echoes everything that could go wrong in a world where connectivity is a must. As kids, we were always given warnings of ‘careful what you write online’ and ‘never give away your password’ but there comes a point where our entire lives are all but online, everything except our flesh and bones. Watch Dog’s is this exact point in time.
The nature of connectivity means everyone is connected to everything, a shiny invitation to those willing and able to exploit it. This world is not far away either, consider the Government’s recent ‘loss of data’ blunder, or the hacking of Sony’s PSN which revealed a number of user’s bank details. People have the skills to do so, and if they can expose weaknesses in the defenses of such high profile institutions, than why not the password for your Facebook or PIN number for your debit card.
In a way, Watch Dogs is something of a wake up call to add more petrol to the firewalls that protect us. It highlights all the concerns of ultra-connectivity and while all for fun (stealing money has never been so easy) there is still the question mark that lurks in the players mind. This isn’t fiction, but merely a glimpse into the uncertain ultra-connected future.
Watchdogs is Out Now On XBox One and Playstation 4.