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Re: Watch Dogs, The Great Chasm, and Gamer Elitism

So I've been thinking about Watch Dogs lately.

It looks like this.

Watch Dogs (I refuse to type that weird underscore) was a game that was hyped to the stratosphere before its long-delayed release. I got the game a month after release as a birthday gift.


What I'm about to say about Watch Dogs, I think, might make some of you angry, or maybe you'll nod your head in agreement, or shout at your monitor…I don't know. Here it is (ahem):

Watch Dogs is good.

Now, let me explain what I mean by that. When I say something like "Watch Dogs is good," I don't mean Watch Dogs is a perfect 10, or an A+ or whatever you're preferred scoring system is.

What I mean is…it's good.

Watch Dogs rests firmly in that space I refer to in the title of this article; a space I call The Great Chasm (because I like naming things like that).


Picture, if you will, a huge divide between your perfect 10 games and absolute crap. For example, on one side of this canyon, you have your Shadow of the Colossus, Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Bros…basically every perfect game you can think of. On the other side, you have…I don't know, Superman 64, Big Rigs, and Vampire Rain. Utter crap.


Picture this, but filled with okay/pretty good/kinda meh video games.

Now, between those two points lays a tremendous pile of games that don't get to be legends. They don't get to be infamous for being completely unplayable either. Rather, these are what you would call "average" games. Games that are fun for a bit, offer a little entertainment value, maybe a cool gameplay element, but you're not going to remember them. You'll play them once, and then you'll move on, maybe not even finishing the story. It's the kind of space Watch Dogs occupies; games that are solid, functional, but unremarkable.


That's where Gamer Elitism comes in. Maybe it's the wrong term, but I think it fits. Elitists tend to lump games on one side of this chasm or the other. Either a game is amazing, or it's crap. No middle ground. Maybe a game they like has one thing they dislike, and so they complain about the game being as bad as Superman 64.

(There really should be a law stating that anyone who says a game is as bad as Superman 64 should be immediately forced to play Superman 64 to completion.)



Maybe the graphics aren't as good as they hoped. Maybe they feel the game doesn't have enough weapons. Maybe they don't like EA. (I have controversial opinions re: EA, but that's for another time.)


In any case, they forget that games like Watch Dogs exist. Games that don't fit into the life-changing pile or the pile-of-dog-poo pile. Games that are just…fine.

That's why it's a chasm. There's amazing, there's worthless, and then there's innumerable games just like Watch Dogs. Your 7 out of 10's. Those games that rapidly drop in price from Day 1. Watch Dogs hasn't really dropped in price, being a Triple-A effort from UbiSoft. Still, Watch Dogs is a functional game; none of it is really broken as far as I can tell. It's a game that works, and it can be entertaining in moments.


In other words, Watch Dogs is solid, but unremarkable.

For example, the gameplay. Watch Dogs, playing like Grand Theft Auto with a better shooting engine, gets almost nothing wrong in this department. You've got a wide variety of weapons to use, a cover system, the cars handle well, and the hacking system works. Gameplay wise, Watch Dogs does nothing wrong.


Then again, Watch Dogs does nothing new. The one new thing Watch Dogs has is the hacking system; press Triangle to make things explode, steal money from randos, and what not. We've all seen the previews; the entire game and story is built around Aiden Pierce's ultra-phone.

And it's not really new. Or, at least, it never builds to anything exciting. Can you name one really cool thing you did in Watch Dogs? I mean, something that really blew your mind.


Probably not.


Well, there WAS Spider Tank...right?

And then there's Aiden, the lump you play as. Caught in a bland world and an uninteresting plot, Aiden resolves to be bland and uninteresting as well. Much like the gameplay, can you name a really cool moment in the story that shocked you or made you say, "wow?"


Again, probably not. Watch Dogs squandered all its interesting story bits and killed/sidelined all its mildly interesting characters.


Aiden Pierce is a dude who stares at his phone all day. The mask is the most interesting thing about him.

But here's the thing: that's okay.

Not every game has to be a masterpiece. Not every game can be one. And yet, those games can be entertaining. Like how Watch Dogs is kinda sorta fun; it's a game that works, plays solid, but never pushes itself over the top.


It's a game that rests in the Chasm, and like so many others, it's dismissed as awful without actually being really awful.

It's just good.

And again, that's what I mean by Gamer Elitism; the inability or unwillingness to accept that some games are just okay. Maybe kinda fun.


That kind of attitude really closes you off to a variety of experiences in gaming. By gravitating only towards the perfect 10's and the "popular" titles (games splattered all over banner ads and GameStop), you're assuming that nothing else is great and everything else is garbage. Which means you're not taking a chance on a game that got, say a 7 out of 10 even though you might like it.

For all the harping I've done on Watch Dogs, I don't regret my time playing it. I'm sure there's some of you who freaking loved it. That's my point exactly. Everyone has different tastes, and you should explore that chasm and see what you find. Move away from your Call of Duty's, Battlefields, and Grand Theft Auto's, and shop around. You might be surprised at what you discover. Sometimes "okay" games are pretty fun.


Brian White is something of an indie game journalist, an editor at Current Digital, and a weekly contributor here at Kotaku TAY, writing a new Game of the Week article every Tuesday. He can be found on Twitter, and you can help out his new series, Re: Gaming, by contributing to his Patreon. Game on!

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