You don’t have to look very far in Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs to see how much time they’ve put into creating a realistic and immersive world, and with every person inhabiting the virtual Chicago having a back story, you could spend hours upon hours poring over every minute detail – some of it tragic and some of it funny.
But part of the fun of Watch_Dogs is what i’ll call the ‘meta-game’ – the personal and unique tales that will be talked about amongst friends and on the internet – that makes it such a stroke of game design genius. The ability to share all of this quickly and easily with the new generation of hardware just perpetuates an already inherently ‘social’ game premise. Watch_Dogs will stay in the public consciousness by virtue of the spontaneity and uniqueness of everyone’s personal in-game experiences.
As we’ve seen with Mario Kart 8, and the now infamous Luigi death stare meme, games now have a much wider reach than previously, with a propensity to go viral than unmatched by any other time in gaming history. As a result these games are being defined not by playing them necessarily, but how they are being disseminated virally online.
While Mario Kart 8 hasn’t necessarily brought out the inner online media socialite in me, Watch_Dogs has, and I’ve found myself sharing all manner of videos and screen captures online. Some were of incredible one-off moments and others of interesting profiles of the plethora of people populating the incredibly dense world Ubisoft has created. But it wasn’t until I posted a screenshot of a profile of one Spencer Lawley-Jones on Facebook that I realised the potential for Watch_Dogs to be the first game to show the potential for videogames to invade the mainstream online consciousness, and the almost boundless potential for fan fiction to exist outside of the game itself.
You see I came across Spencer Lawley-Jones walking around a normal everyday suburban Chicago street. An unassuming 30-something man wearing a baseball cap, a nice woolen jumper, and a pair of jeans – Spencer was the kind of guy you’d take no notice of. Working as a bank teller by day, he’s the kind of guy you’d imagine would invite a few friends around on a Friday night to watch the football. He probably drinks, but not a lot, and his main vice is the once a month he gets together with the guys from the office for a poker night, where he’ll smoke the only cigar he’ll smoke until the next poker night, and will lose $20 because his poker face isn’t so good. He’s your average hard-working American joe.
He also happens to have been fined for indecent exposure.
I was taken aback by the revelation about Spencer Lawley Jones, so much so that I felt the need to share it with friends and family. And that’s when Facebook asked me to “Tap to Tag a Friend”. I considered it for a moment, “who could I tag as being the guy fined for indecent exposure?”, but decided against it for fear of hitting a raw nerve or accidentally upsetting someone. But I took a screenshot of the moment for posterity, because years from now it is moments like these – moments in real life – that will define my memories and personal relationship with a game that I think will be remembered as a leap forward in immersion in video games.