When you hear the term "hacker" what image does it conjure for you? A double-chinned hoody wearing computer nerd, surrounded by PCs and empty pizza boxes? Or perhaps Jonny Lee Miller on rollerblades? For Ubisoft Montreal, the makers of the forthcoming Watch Dogs, a hacker is a modern-day hero.
Watch Dogs is an open world action game, putting you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce, a hacker out for revenge following an attempt on his life that results in his niece being killed. While some gamers may treat the hacking community with suspicion ("they're the ones responsible for the Great PlayStation Network Meltdown of 2011, right?"), the team at Ubisoft Montreal thinks that hackers haven't only been given a raw deal by the media, but that they're a new breed of role model too, pushing boundaries so that we don't have to.
"I’ve been in the culture of hacking since the early 2000s, and to me it was always a shame to see this thriving culture of highly intelligent, diverse people, doing great things for society, not getting the portrayal they deserve," said Watch Dogs Brand Director Thomas Geffroyd, the man responsible for approaching real-world hacking communities to ensure Watch Dogs's in-game portrayal was as authentic as possible.
"They’re the Robin Hoods of today. We’ve been swamped with technology for the past ten years because of the benefits of having a smartphone, without asking any of the questions. We’re just accepting of this troubling agreement all the time -- the hackers are the only people separating technology from magic. They point out the flaws -- 'this isn’t working, this isn’t working, this isn’t working, someone fix that!' And they say 'I can do that, I can challenge that norm, that system', something that the public cannot do.
"It was a welcome challenge to create something that would for once portray them in the right way."
Though the recent NSA and GCHQ revelations (stirring more controversy than ever before about online data security), happened too late into the development of the game to affect its direction, Watch Dogs Story Designer Kevin Shortt felt that he and his team had a greater responsibility than ever to show the hacking community sympathetically in the light of the uproar.
"How secure is our information? Who’s controlling that information?," Shortt told Gizmodo. "Yes there are hackers to worry about, but who is running the systems that houses the information? They’ve got complete, unfettered access to all this stuff. I’m hoping that our game becomes part of that dialogue."
Watch Dogs is out on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC on 27th May 2014, with a Wii U release slated for "Fall 2014". That's the Autumn to us in the UK. For more on Watch Dogs, including Gizmodo's impressions from a recent four-hour hands-on session with the game, click here.