Depending on who you ask, Watch Dogs 2 is either the best open-world video game to come out this year, or it’s incredibly problematic because you’re totally “woke” and see things nobody else does.
Ubisoft’s new game puts players in the role of a hacker-turned-vigilante named Marcus Holloway, who becomes a hacktivist after he’s wrongly framed for a crime he didn’t commit. In the wake of the charges against him, Marcus joins up with an Anonymous-inspired hacking group called DedSec to take down the city’s digital surveillance network by exposing its weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Kind of like a real hacker, but with parkour and guns.
Unlike the previous game in the series, Watch Dogs 2 takes a less gritty (not to mention depressing) approach to hacktivism and embraces the trollish, anti-establishment and punk culture that has come to define hackers in the real world. It pokes fun at Silicon Valley, social media, the prevalence of selfies, and millennial pop culture.
The game, which has met with largely positive reception, is the latest casualty in the ongoing culture war against anything and everything deemed politically incorrect and “problematic.” The Polygon review of the game takes issue with many of the missions Marcus takes on. In one, players hack into a girl’s webcam to show her how vulnerable the cameras are, as they have the potential to reveal much more of your private life than you’re willing to show the world.
Marcus’s methods might not be entirely nice, but the lesson is sound: Webcams and other connected devices are vulnerable. Polygon calls this “gross, victim blaming,” as if taking precautions is ever a bad idea. Is it wrong to keep your doors locked when you leave the house?
Just last month, a Chinese electronics company was forced to issue a recall of its globally available webcams after they were used in the Mirai botnet that conducted a massive attack on Internet infrastructure.
Story missions aside, Watch Dogs 2 has also come under scrutiny for accidentally including full nudity. The game, which is a mature-rated title, contains the rendering of a vagina on one of its female characters. It’s like the “Hot Coffee” controversy that dogged Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas over ten years ago.
Players who took screenshots of the texture were suspended by Sony from PlayStation Network for sharing “content of an adult or sexual nature,” which is against the service’s Code of Conduct. Never mind the fact that it was part of the game in the first place. The user who first exposed the issue says that his one week ban was extended to a month after he went public. Lewd imagery aside, Sony’s practice of punishing users who point out problems with its policies is appalling.
Ubisoft is aware of the explicit texture and has announced that it will release an update to remedy the issue.
For now, there’s little doubt that Watch Dogs 2 will remain the outrage du jour until some other weapons-grade gaming controversy eclipses it.