Why the Next Watch Dogs Game Should Be Set in Dallas
What would it look like if a rogue hacker who could control the entire fiber-optic grid of the city of Dallas right from his cellphone was set loose on our streets?
Courtesy of Ubisoft and Google Maps/Photo alterations by Danny Gallagher
In the summer of 2012, the internet went out of its collective mind over a new game that became the undisputed sleeper hit of the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles. Game publisher Ubisoft released a trailer for Watch Dogs that easily overshadowed any other blood soaked, trigger-happy game the other studios had thrown to the masses like so much raw meat in a shark tank.
At first, it looked like just another open-world adventure game where players could cause vehicular mayhem and wanton destruction (or actually complete the missions that move along the story in a virtual city). That all changed when a dark, brooding, overcoat-sporting hacker named Aiden Pearce pulled out his smartphone and started manipulating the virtual universe with his fingertips. He could unlock and start any car, track the calls and locations of his fellow citizens and even control stop lights and automatic police barricades to clear a path in traffic during car chases. It gave gamers something they didn't know they wanted in an open-world shooter: the ability stir up some mayhem with something other than a gun (or a chainsaw, lead pipe, ax, etc., the usual tools of gaming destruction).
Ubisoft released Watch Dogs in 2014 and the game didn't exactly live up to the ridiculous hype that its well-edited trailer demo delivered, but it did offer a fun, new approach to the open-world adventure genre. So naturally, at the E3 convention this week Ubisoft announced the development of a sequel called Watch Dogs 2 that will transport the franchise from the easily hackable world of Chicago to the sprawling metropolis known as San Francisco. If the next game is even moderately more successful than its launch title, then it's bound to set a city-hopping trend similar to the one that started with the Grand Theft Auto series, the granddaddy of open-world shooters.
If anyone from Ubisoft working on the third, fourth or fifth Watch Dogs game is reading, here's why Dallas should be its setting.
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1. Dallas has a very active hacker culture
One of the biggest loopholes in the first title's story was the scary amount of accessibility that the game's protagonist had to the city of Chicago. The Windy City proudly announced the installation of a new central operating system nicknamed the ctOS that could control all of their electronic and digital infrastructure, including public utilities like steam lines and street lights, and even provide quicker satellite access for private citizens' phone lines and internet connections. They basically put all of their hackable goodies in one vault with a security system that's about as effective as Rube Goldberg's method of buttering toast.
Dallas has a very active community of hackers who are doing what they can to rage against the machine, such as the hackers who came to the aid of Irving's Ahmed Mohamed when police arrested him for bringing a homemade clock to school, or the 16-year-old whiz kid who cracked Snapchat and exposed security flaws that even their top designers couldn't find. We've also got cyber infrastructures that the city and state don't know how to protect and a DedSec society in the form of an unidentified hacker or hackers who keep altering road construction signs to display messages like "Bernie for President," "Donald Trump is a shape shifting lizard" and "Work is cancelled, go back home."
So if Ubisoft finds itself having a hard time constructing another plausible story to explain how their DedSec members, the Anonymous-esque group of computer hackers who seek to expose and destroy the city's unchecked surveillance state, can so easily access a city's multibillion dollar grid, then come down to North Texas. Just ignore any road signs that say "gone fishin'" or "out to lunch."
2. We've got a bunch of cool, easy-to-steal cars
A major component of any open-world game is driving. Vehicles not only give the whole experience a deeper sense of realism and interactivity but even virtual characters don't appreciate having to walk or use public transportation. Watch Dogs offers the same component but adds a twist that lets players drive any car they want by simply hacking into the car's security system. It's not only more discreet than breaking a window, but the driver is also more likely to get his security deposit back if it's a rental.
Despite Texas' cowboy stereotype, we don't get from point A to point B on horseback anymore, and Dallas commuters' disdain for public transit runs deep. In fact, Texans own some of the coolest cars in the country. Our state is the eighth-highest buyer of luxury vehicles in the nation, according to Forbes. The car website Zero-to-60 Times called Plano one of the "Best Places in America to Spot Exotic Cars." Dallas is also full of exotic car dealerships that sell high-end models like Lamborghinis and Bugatti Veyrons to residents who can afford them and the damages when they drive the cars into a lake the same day they buy them.
3. We've got a plethora of private cellular conversations for your eavesdropping pleasure
Another interesting feature of the first Watch Dogs was the ability to listen to any conversation or communication that took place over a landline or cellular telephone. There are moments in the game when hacking into a person's phone is vital to its progression, but players could also just take a lovely stroll in any Chicago neighborhood, enjoy the scenery and listen to a stranger's conversation about back moles.
So if a future Watch Dogs game is looking to violate another citizenry's privacy, Dallas is a great choice. A Rootmetrics report on major U.S. cities' cell phone coverage gave high marks to Dallas in areas such as speed, reliability and call and data availability. So a super smart hacker should have no problem harnessing this system to track the whereabouts of some stolen data files or satisfy a bizarre fetish for listening to people's conversations with their podiatrists.
4. We've got guns, yes we do
The great twist that Watch Dogs put on the open-world game genre is that it adds something to do besides just creating mayhem through violence. In fact, players can go through the entire game without firing a single shot if they're clever enough to know how to break into server rooms and distract enemies with cool powers of magic nerdery. That doesn't mean that guns aren't part of the experience. Players can still pack a weapon or seven and enough ammo to go with it in case they're being hunted by a rival gang and don't feel like dealing with threats through a phone app. Dallas, and the entire state of Texas for that matter, definitely has that angle covered.
The FBI published a survey at the end of 2015 showing that Texas had the third-highest rate of weapons background checks in the nation behind Kansas and California, and that doesn't cover private sales of guns at gun shows or those traded between arms enthusiasts. And thanks to our new open carry laws that the state put into effect this year as well as the Open Carry movement, whose advocates don't see a problem with carrying a high-powered rifle into a Burger King as if it was one of their children, the game's protagonist won't need to wear a heavy, itchy overcoat to hide his arsenal.
Yes, gun access is a hallowed religion for the Lone Star State, and a hacker who always has a target on his head would have no problem getting his hands on one if he's in a pinch.
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