Watch Dogs: Legion is already making headlines, as the title became a topic of debate on the BBC, following its announcement at E3 2019.
Watch Dogs: Legion premiered this past week at E3 2019, and it’s left most of us extremely excited for the future of the series. It’s also received a bunch of national recognition thanks to its political themes that center around a surveillance state ruling through fear. Its fictional exploration of a post-Brexit London so soon off the heals of recent Brexit fallout is pretty ballsy.
Obviously, this has caught the attention of said surveillance state, leading BBC’s Politics Live to broach the subject, “is this an accurate representation of what the country’s future could look like?”
The scary reality of it is a plausible, “yes”.
Politics Live showed a clip of an interview with Watch Dogs: Legion’s own Clint Hocking, the game’s creative director, where he stated the game had been in development for over a year and a half already when the Brexit vote took place. He stressed that London had been their target location long before the vote took place.
“Brexit in our game is not the cause of the problems we’re depicting in the game world. The causes of Brexit are the causes of the problems in our world. That’s really how we address it.” Hocking emphasized.
The show turns towards Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for a moment, touching on that game’s grim representation of a terror attack in London, before jumping back to their main target, Watch Dogs: Legion.
Even though the game’s own creative director stressed the fact that Legion is NOT about Brexit alone, the show’s Brexit supporters couldn’t help but boast it’s own biased views on the matter.
“As a Brexit supporter the temptation is to become outraged they’re portraying Brexit as being such a disaster when actually so far no disaster has materialized,” Toby Young (a reporter for the Spectator) exclaimed during the panel.
Young goes on to say that Ubisoft’s newest title is a result of the nation’s “paranoid style” of thinking. Claiming that these fictional predictions were nothing more than ideas realized by American historian, Richard J. Hofstadter
“But since Brexit and Trump’s victory in 2016, the paranoid style, these paranoid apocalyptic fever dreams, seem to have migrated to the left, and this feels like an example of that.”
Like any politically centered show, there were opposing views as well, highlight by Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani. He claimed that Brexit could, in fact, lead to some “dystopian outcomes… but more like the Chinese state, where you have all-seeing consumer surveillance synergized with state surveillance”.
Mr. Bastini went on to say, “I doubt the explosions and all the interesting costumes, but I do think that confluence of crises meeting big data in a potentially authoritarian state or authoritarian form of capitalism could be quite concerning.”
Bastini points out that “speculative fiction” like Watchdogs: Legion is a way for us to make a statement that yes, the world is changing, but will we let it change for the better or the worse?
Young countered that Watch Dogs: Legion didn’t “feel particularly serious.” Stating that, “It feels like another manifestation of a dystopian satire emerging from mass culture, but none of these dystopian satires have actually materialized.”
The show goes on to discuss how it’s good that some form of media is finally bringing to light the possible real-world implications of a deal like Brexit. With one person even going on to state, “How amazing would it be if gaming was the thing that united the left and right eventually? It could happen.”
Miatta Fahnbulleh from the New Economics Foundation closed the debate by thanking Ubisoft for bringing these questions and concerns to the forefront of the Brexit discussion.
“It may not be the dystopia, but the underlying drivers of Brexit, yes there were people who voted for the European Union, but for a lot of people it was despair and discontent with the economic system, with an economic system that still benefits a tiny proportion of people where people aren’t feeling the benefit in the majority.”
“The problem in all of the debate of the last three years is we’ve gone away from that. And we’re not talking about those issues and we’re not talking about how we need to respond. We’re talking about the ins and outs of whether we leave or how we leave, and that is a problem. If it takes the gaming industry to shine a spotlight on that? Thank you very much.”
While Watch Dogs: Legion might not paint London’s future in the best light, it has certainly sparked an interesting conversation about where the nation is going, or where it could potentially end up if those in power end up amassing too much. While it might not have been Ubisoft’s intention to make the primary focus of the game about politics, it would seem the media strongly disagrees.