Lessons From…Watch Dogs

For those of you who enjoy the wonderful interactive medium of video games, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is this week! The trade and exhibition show, more widely known as E3, takes place this week and with it brings forth the next year’s news, games, and promises concerning the video game culture and community. From major companies and titles to indie developers, E3 is where mostly everything will be seen and proliferated to the industry and public.

With this in mind, today’s lesson is video game oriented and slightly different from past posts. Instead of deriving ideas and morals from a specific text or example, this post focuses on the expectations and occurrences of a video game and the community around said game. Specifically, I wish to discuss the expectations and eventual delivery of “Watch Dogs.”

 watch dogs

Watch Dogs premiered at last year’s E3 to great reviews and astounding praise. This game was going to be revolutionary allowing for a fully immersive, constantly changing world that would adapt to the player’s actions while still being a beautiful, pristine city for us to play in. For anyone who plays games on any consistent basis, you can imagine how utterly impossible such a claim is to fulfill, but, for some reason, we held out hope that this one could finally follow through on all its promises.

The game finally made it to the public last month and, frankly, it did not live up to the hype. Now, the thing is there is absolutely nothing really wrong with the game. Yeah, there are a few minor technical glitches and the game doesn’t look as nice as it did at E3 (they never do), but nothing that really should bring down the game’s actual play-ability. To be perfectly honest, it is a fine game. The missions are about the right length and can get somewhat repetitive but never too far so. The game play is accessible and easy to pick up after a few trials. The action makes sense and is, for the most part, responsive and slightly intuitive.

The real issue is that Watch Dogs does several things well but never excels at any of them. It essentially took several parts and skills of other games but doesn’t improve on them or add anything creative or new. Basically the greatest crime that Watch Dogs commits is being just another title to add to the list.

This applies to all mediums. Will the same structure and story be repeated from time to time? Of course, but every author, musician, or artist that does so must add to the original in some way, specifically they must add their voice or perspective to create something new that was not previously present.

Which brings us to today’s takeaway lesson; regardless of budget, time, and talent your art needs to say something worthwhile even if it is simply your voice speaking into the void. There have been multiple examples of new works that while technically fine just failed to really reach an audience because they gave nothing to their audiences. Indeed, it might be comforting to have the familiar available but the memorable works are those that have that little twist or perspective that caught us off guard a bit. Something to ponder and try for those of use working out our creative muscles.

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