In 2020 I played Watch_Dogs, Ubisoft’s 2014 open world game that functions very much like every other Ubisoft open world game. It is generic, and very triple-A, and it’s absolutely fine. The story is bold and basic and predictable. It’s a 6 out of 10. It’s fine. It’s fine. It also isn’t fine in a bunch of ways I’d love to talk about but I don’t know enough about politics or sociology to be educated about it, but that’s not the point. Well, it sort of is the point.
See, here’s the thing. We like junk food. We like trashy novels. We like pop music. People who like prog rock are definitely intellectually superior, but people who like dance music are having more fun. Games are the same - there are so many amazing indie games offering me amazing stories, incredible puzzles, experiences that I couldn’t have anywhere else, but they’re hard. They are - as much as I am absolutely not that guy who got all upset about Untitled Goose Game - work, sometimes. I have climbed mountains, I have run through “the wall”, I know the value of work, I know that it’s worth working for things. But, you know what? Sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes I want something that’s just fun. I want a book without a deeper meaning, I want a film that makes me laugh. I want a game that tells me where to go and tells me I’m a good boy when I get there. That’s fine.
Watch_Dogs is just that. It always, always tells you exactly where to go. The driving feels great, the gunplay makes you feel like a marksman, the hacking somehow makes you feel like a skilled hacker. Failure just sets you back a minute and you almost never fail the same thing twice, because it’s just not that hard, but every interaction makes you feel like a wizard.
Now look, I don’t want to dismiss Watch_Dogs’ failures entirely - it opens with a torture scene, it features threat towards children and kidnapping. You control someone who blackmails people and beats them and is treated like a hero for it. It is utterly, profoundly messed up, and it absolutely does not earn that kind of content. If we’re comparing it to great works of fiction it is absolutely awful, but if we’re talking about a silly, forgettable way to relax, it’s fine.