What Ifs: Watch Dogs Edition

I had a realization the other day that kind of scared me. Being scared is kind of a regular thing for me, but this was different. This realization left me pondering if what I do in video games without a second thought is something I could or would do under similar circumstances in real life. More specifically, could I potentially steal from people that live paycheck to paycheck with no room for error. It would be nice to say that nothing could drive me to such a thing, but people do it every day. Let me explain. A little while back I bought a graphics card that came with a free copy of Watch Dogs. I installed it on my new machine as fast as I could, knowing that I would misplace the code as soon as I turned my back. No, seriously, I knew that little piece of paper with the code on it would just vanish the second I took my eyes off it.

Not a lot happened with Watch Dogs after that. I got distracted by funny Rooster Teeth videos and modding Skyrim, among other things. As you have probably realized I wasn’t overwhelmingly excited about the prospect of playing Watch Dogs. I read a couple of negative reviews, and the controversy regarding its graphics potential didn’t do much for me either. I’m not sure what made me change my mind and play it. Maybe I was just that bored. Whatever it was, I’m glad it caught my attention because Watch Dogs is a lot of fun. Sure, I could get nit picky about this or that, but when it comes down to it Ubisoft released a solid, fun, and interesting game that has already consumed about a dozen hours of my life.

Being a vigilante in Chicago isn’t easy. There’s cops and gangsters and everywhere you turn there’s another petty thug trying to get his piece of some poor sucker’s wallet. In order to fight crime, one needs money. Unfortunately, the main character of Watch Dogs, Aiden Pearce, doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy to want a steady nine to five. And with all the crime in the game’s version of Chicago, he doesn’t really have the time for it either. So instead of that, Pearce decides to use his impossibly powerful phone to hack the bank accounts of any citizen he happens past. It’s incredibly hypocritical behavior if you ask me. Protecting the people then stealing from them. It’s possible that he justifies it by thinking protecting people from getting beaten up or killed in alleyways gives him the right to do ‘whatever is necessary’ in order to continue. Maybe he just wants revenge for the death of his niece and doesn’t care who he hurts along the way. Hopefully the game will explore that more. Whatever the reason, hacking people’s bank accounts becomes a pretty regular thing as one plays the game.

This is where my realization shows up. I was walking up and down the street in front of a gun shop, hacking whoever I could find. I was thinking about the highly rated automatic shotgun I was going to buy for use on my next mission. Then I came across a woman who looked like anybody else. Without considering what I was doing, I hacked this woman’s $430 bank account. Then I read her total income and her profession. She made 23k a year as a day care worker. A day care worker! Someone who works with children, most likely at a non-profit business. At that income level, $430 is a huge chunk of money. As the son of a childcare professional, I was disappointed with myself. I paused the game and hung my head. Then it hit me. In a flash of memory I realized that wasn’t the first day care worker I’d taken money from that day. It was the third.