A Sequence of Observable Events in Watch_Dogs, or Peeping Psycho

Due to the upcoming announcement of Watch_Dogs 2, I was reminded of this piece I wrote. I’ve gone back and edited it a little. I do hope that the next game breaks away from the monstrous but ultimately boring character that is, Aiden Pearce.

Watch_Dogs isn’t a great game, it’s not a terrible one either, this isn’t an original or controversial opinion, like the game itself, mediocrity is the consensus. There is one element of this lackluster game that I’ve taken quite a shine to, the ‘Privacy Invasion’ activity. This, one of the many side activities in Watch_Dogs, involves finding a junction box and hacking it. Occasionally it’s a little more complex but the basic formula of find the thing, follow a line until you find another thing to unlock the first thing, stands. What I’m intrigued by is what happens after that, you get treated to an extended tableau, or the alternatively, the first act of a play, an intrusion into the lives of the denizens of Chicago. They range, much like life itself, from the mundane to the creepy and occasionally the emotionally touching. You experience, like the voyeur you are playing, a snapshot into complex lives.

I’d like to talk briefly about two of these unsettling intrusions. The first happens in medias res, a man and his topless companion are playing Russian roulette, the woman holding the gun towards him and while the man eggs her on to pull the trigger, which she does, several times. Her nudity acts as a visual cue, the breaking of a taboo which signals the possibility of more broken taboos to come, that the gun held precariously could, before the end, expel a small but fatal shard of metal, ending in explicit violence. This didn’t happen, the scene ends in suspense with the woman putting the still presumably loaded and miraculously unfired gun to her own head.

The second is a far more subdued scene, the camera’s view isn’t total, partially blocked by a table or chair. A man, which the wonderful magic phone you carry with you is able, despite the obstruction of view, to identify him. It tells you that he’s a seventy year old man with cancer in remission. He remains motionless and you could, presumably, look on his prone form forever without the camera kicking you out. The only action you have is to hack a phone lying strewn on the floor. Doing so brings up an answerphone message, left just that morning from a concerned son who’s decided that his father should live with him and that he’d be by in the evening to pick him up. Usually these encounters end themselves quickly, kicking you out of the scene, but this one hangs on, I was starting to wonder whether I could leave it on forever and was consequently a little disappointed when it did, after an admittedly decent amount of time, lock me out. Yet that lengthening of the traditional time was done well and impressed me, these incidents were clearly created with some level of thought into the detail.

Neither offers resolution, we don’t know whether the gun will, as Chekhov is famously quoted as saying, go off in the second or third act. Nor do we know whether the man lying on the floor is alive and even if he is, we don’t know what will happen next. Importantly for a game we are unable to influence the future of these figures, we can’t call the police to get the first two arrested (hopefully saving their lives) nor can we call the ambulance for the old man. We are impotent, unfortunately these privacy invasions are not about helping people, they are about being a pretty creepy voyeur, which does suit the personality of Aiden Pearce, the role that you are supposed to inhabit, but is pretty unsatisfying if you wanted to play the game with any illusions that you were a good guy. Often, what little choice you have in these scenes make you anything but, with frequent opportunities to hack the bank account of those you surveil. This, while feeling like a twisted sense of justice against an objectifying misogynistic ass, becomes needlessly cruel against a couple fighting terminal cancer.

What this says about the lead character speaks to the pointlessness of moral choice in a game centered around an ignorant, self-righteous, psychopath.

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Extract from a most enjoyable text

The president, Jean Joseph Mounier, had gone to console the King leaving his chair to the Bishop of Langres, who was quite incapable of controlling the rabble. ‘Order! Order!’ the bishop called as the women clambered on to the platform. ‘We don’t give a fuck for order,’ they shouted at him. ‘We want bread.’
The French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert

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Why Tennis is Good or How I Learned That The Great Matches Are The Long Ones.

Tennis is on at the moment, Wimbledon and all that. I rarely find myself consistently rooting for a single team or person in any sporting event that I watch. Probably due to my inconsistency in watching, if I find myself close to a television with a rugby match on I’ll catch it but I don’t go out of my way to follow every match Wales plays, even during the highly publicized Six Nations, although big events do encourage, in me at least, a more proactive effort to watch play. So my choice and interest this year of which match to watch at Wimbledon and which to simply let slip by, largely rests upon which players I liked watching last year, Lisicki being one that’s going on right now. From last Wednesday’s match between Stepanek and Djokovic, the resilience and determination shown by Stephanek ensures that when he next appears at Wimbledon (assuming of course that he does), I shall gravitate towards his matches when I see them on the schedule. Which brings me to my next point, any match of tennis requires such a huge time investment to watch, with matches ranging from anything around an hour to three or in some cases a hell of a long longer. The shorter the match is, the more predictable the outcome, a match that’s over quickly is one in which one player dominates the other, so you find yourself more attracted to the closer competitions where both sides do their utmost to avoid losing a single point while scoring for themselves. It is this reason that tennis at it’s best is utterly captivating for me, we’re not talking about a sport where one player is guaranteed to wipe the floor with their competitors, at the very top it’s a bloody pantheon, with no clear Zeus or Hera to claim dominance but rather each player heavily and violently contests the mantle to attain, temporarily at best, the crown.

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The Shape of Things to Come

‘To a person finding himself at the beginning of an era, its simple fundamental structures may become visible like a distant landscape in the flash of a single stroke of lightning. But the path toward them in the dark is long and confusing. At that time [i.e., 1939] we were faced with a very simple logic. Wars waged with atom bombs as regularly recurring events, that is to say, nuclear wars as institutions, do not seem reconcilable with the survival of the participating nations. But the atom bomb exists. It exists in the minds of some men. According to the historically known logic of armaments and power systems, it will soon make its physical appearance. If that is so, then the participating nations and ultimately mankind itself can only survive if war as an institution is abolished.’

– Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, German physicist involved in nuclear research for the Nazi’s, found in The Making of The Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

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An Annoyance

I am, I’m afraid to easily distracted. Sitting here reading Richard Rhodes ‘The Making of the Atomic Bomb’ while my open door ferrets the sound of ‘Just a Minute’, try as I might, my focus is lost, spiralling into that quagmire that programming designed to be easy to listen to and follow, creates. If I’m honest, it’s not just that, the thickness of the book weighs on my mind, that nagging feeling that the time spent crunching the formidable length could be spent doing something else.

This something else is never clear to me, never revealed with a bright neon sign. Yet everything that upfront reveals how much time you need to invest to complete it inspires a similar dread in me. Its all very well to watch Friends as it aired, but if I had never heard of it and was one day given the collection, lock stock and barrels so to speak, I’d dare say that despite the quality, the length would distract and worry me. Ironically this post too, under the guise of writing something with substance, serves as another distraction, so I shall push Publish and return to that fascinating tome, hopefully with the regrets mitigated if not entirely allayed.

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The Confession and Manifesto of a Lethargic Student

I started my M.A. with a mission statement namely, learning was its own reward and regardless of my disenchantment with academic institutions I would continue to explore the different tenets and ideologies so I might learn more about the world around me, I would make the world bigger for myself. But in praxis I have allowed these ill feelings and outside agitators to supplant the foundations on which I approached edification, this in turn has lead to an apathetic limp in the completion of my academic pursuits. So here I am, seventeen weeks before I have to hand in what will most probably be my last foray in formal education, supposedly knuckling down for the single largest assignment I have ever written. Yet I am lethargic and letting slip what should be the crowning pursuit of a combination of six years at university, so what am I going to do? Rather than appeal to a lofty ideal as to why I should enjoy and subsequently work harder on my assignment, I  however offer this far more pragmatic resolution that I will do what is necessary to complete this assignment to a quality that is reflective of the time and expense that I have put in, so I have the degree that I deserve. This is why I, Tim Lewis, pledge to write a minimum of 1000 words a week effective immediately.

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A Juxtaposition of Themes

‘The grand marshal of the palace complains bitterly [wrote the governor] that despite repeated prohibitions the soldiers continue to obey the call of nature in all the courtyards, and even under the Emperor’s own windows.’
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

‘Spring break, spring break, spring break forever.’
Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine

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