Some Players Are Hunting Down Minorities In Watch Dogs

Some Players Are Hunting Down Minorities In Watch Dogs

Ubisoft’s latest open world game, Watch Dogs, lets players assume the role of a hacker named Aiden Pearce. Pearce uses a mobile phone app to learn more about the strangers roaming Watch Dogs’ version of Chicago — and some players are using this information to kill digital minorities.

If you’ve seen screenshots or footage of Watch Dogs, then you already know what sorts of information Pearce mobile phone app, the Profiler, tells the player. Here’s one example:

Some Players Are Hunting Down Minorities In Watch Dogs

You’ll note that the Profiler tells you a character’s name, their age, their occupation (and sometimes their income), as well as one random fact about the character. The fact can be anything, from interests and hobbies to sexual preferences and everything in-between. It might not seem like much, but this information is genuinely changing the way people play and think about the game.

This was apparent before the game even officially out. Back when the game had leaked ahead of its release, Kotaku received an email about players who hunted down certain characters in Watch Dogs. Most footage of this nature was taken down by the time we caught wind of it, but there were still at least one screenshot floating around that purported to show characters that players targeted…

Some Players Are Hunting Down Minorities In Watch Dogs

It wasn’t long until more footage like this popped up, though. Here’s an unsettling video titled “Making the World a Better Place,” which was uploaded by user Moopoke. It shows players gunning down characters based on the information the Profiler displays:

Of course, not everyone is playing Watch Dogs like this. In fact, most people probably aren’t. And just like a gay character might become a target for players like this, so might characters who play video games or watch hentai. I don’t sincerely believe that a player that would do this sort of thing is always, without question, actually hateful towards certain groups of people in real life. But just because some part of the whole thing seems to be in jest, or perhaps a ploy to seek attention, doesn’t make the “joke” any less unnerving.

Call me cynical, but the fact some players would do things like this doesn’t surprise me. I doubt it surprises Ubisoft, either. Open-world games are highly popular in part because players use massive worlds as playgrounds to cause havoc in, and NPCs have always suffered at the hands of jerk players. There’s no way Ubisoft couldn’t anticipate that players would go on rampages. This predilection for havoc makes it hard to give kudos to Ubisoft for including underrepresented characters. Sure, they’re included — but at best the most they can be is potential victims, not interesting or complex characters.

More recently, Ethan James Petty, a scriptwriter on Watch Dogs, tweeted that he “can’t wait to see how you guys abuse our poor npcs in #WatchDogs . Be sure to take screenshots!” When confronted by game developer David Gallant about the fact that players were using the Profiler in disgusting ways, Petty seemed to shrug it off. “[That’s the] sick reality we live in – people’s privacy reduced to facts,” he explained. “Profiler at its core *should* be offensive to everyone.”

Petty went on to note that the Profiler also opened up the option of letting players protect minorities from crimes, and that the game actively punished players for killing civilians — though the latter fact is hardly reassuring. It’s not like “the cops might come after me” really stops someone from committing crimes in an open-world game; part of the thrill, I’d say, is figuring out how to deal with the consequences of breaking the law.

In that sense, what we’re seeing in Watch Dogs isn’t entirely new: some people still approach open world games with an unhinged attitude. The difference now is that the characters/victims can be actively profiled, and that can make certain kills in the game more disturbing than they’d be if the character was just a nameless NPC.

It is worth noting that, in general, players seem to use the information for “good” — or at least, as defined by their own moral system. Mike Williams of US Gamer, for instance, has written about how the Profiler influences what sorts of things he does in the game:

That NPC is an investment advisor making over $US100,000 who just got back from vacation; I’m fine skimming a bit off the top of their bank account. Is that thug an animal lover making under $US25,000? I’ll just knock him out instead of putting a bullet in his head. Hey, that’s a nice car and you don’t believe in evolution; I’ll take that $US500 off your hands. There’s whole sections virtual Chicago where I try commit no crimes: the high-poverty Wards and the blue collar Brandon Docks. I figure they have enough issues, without me taking their money, vehicles, and lives.

In an informal Twitter poll, people liked to tell me about the ways the Profiler allowed them to “Robin Hood” the game, as it made it easier for players to tell what characters “deserved” to be robbed/killed/hacked.

You’ll probably hear a lot about the moral ways that people use the Profiler. Just don’t be surprised if you occasionally hear about the unsettling ways people use it too.


  • I don’t really care if they are black, white, asian, poverty stricken or getting over cancer if their is money in their bank account I am taking it. These aren’t real people they are textures and code, I don’t understand why studios keep trying to make players consider their actions it is a game! The consequences end with the power button. Mario Kart is more fun anyhow.

    • I don’t really care if they are black, white, asian, poverty stricken or getting over cancer if
      They are on the footpath they are gonna get run over. Get out of my way idiots, the police are chasing me.

      • I try not to mow down people when I drive in Open World games, but they do insist on standing infront of the crazy guy beeping his horn after jumping over a fountain off a high way for some reason.

        Seriously programmers when I am in a car, on the pavement beeping my horn stop the AI from going Deer in headlights on me and just make them run like hell away from me. Eventually you say to hell with it they ain’t real and run em down.

    • Because while they are simulated people, simulating the moral repercussions of your actions (even if only in your own head) makes the game more nuanced and interesting.

      There’s nothing particularly wrong with following the munchkin route (i.e. play for the game mechanics rather than the game subtext), but there’s nothing holy about it either. One of the advantages of games is that they let you confront decisions that you might never have to make in real life. Sure it’s all pretend, but the decisions you make in some cases can be pretty tough in the game’s context.

      • Yeah I can see your point, but I spend a lot of my life contemplating real life decisions that have actual impact on my future. So when I play games I tend to shut all that off and just have fun, I couldn’t really care less about the back story of the NPCs I shoot, run over or slice in half with sword. On the other hand in a series like Mass Effect or Fallout the actions you take have a profound outcome on how the game plays out I take a bit more care in my decisions but something like watch dogs doesn’t really have any consequences as avoiding the law is a simple task if committing more crimes made you more of a target then I might do it a bit less in WD but at the end of the day its not really worth it.

      • Agreed. I absolutely loved how emotionally challenging I found my Sith play-through of KOTOR. Some missions and interactions actually forced me to stop playing and take an hour or two out to play with my cats and remind myself that I’m not actually a bad person, before going back and demanding that my lifedebted Wookiee murder his best friend in front of me for no reason.

        Similarly with Mass Effect 3, I actually screwed up a couple of my near-perfect renegade score a couple of times because I couldn’t bring myself to stay in character.

        Regardless of my criticisms of both of those games, they made me feel something uncomfortable and fascinating, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment for a bunch of pixels.

  • bahaha that video was hilarious, take a joke people, is it better to mindlessly kill anyone and everyone in games such as gta, and even then ITS JUST A GAME THEY ARE NOT REAL. people have dark satire and this is it, its hilarious.

    • The game may not be real, but the decision-making process is. You might be surprised how much can be gleaned about the willpower and ethical compass of a person by the way they behave in situations with no apparent consequences.

  • It’s not like he singles out one race or religion , He shot just about anyone who had an unusual piece of information on their Bio.

    I’m not condoning it but the player obviously was just trying to be funny and may have crossed a line in some peoples eyes

  • Social Justice Warriors need to learn how to take a joke. This site is so fucking shitty.

  • I love how Mike Williams’ comments about how he preys on the successful get largely ignored, but a handful of people post videos of them attacking poor people and the headline is “players hunting minorities”.

    Some people are rich because they work really hard, make sacrifices and have earned it – just like some poor people are poor because they’re lazy, socially dysfunctional, or because they’ve otherwise mad bad life choices.

    Apparently, one decision makes you “Robin Hood” and the other makes you a bigoted scumbag.

    • Hahaha. I didn’t watch the video, but thanks for that haha I don’t know why I find your comment so funny.

  • Like I said the other day, I don’t discriminate, I steal from every mofo. That said, it did make me feel good to see that the criminal I had just chased down yesterday was a paedophile.

  • I have to admit, I did an Intrude side activity last night and after hacking the device in the room and stealing the money I hung around to listen to the conversation. It was a married couple discussing how they could no longer afford the husbands cancer treatment. I felt terrible and wished I could have put the money back.

    Having said that, though, the feeling probably lasted a whole 15 seconds after continuing the game.

  • This reminds me of the serial killer house collections in Skyrim, it was funny to see how a player looks at a game mechanic and thinks, I can keep items, I will keep heads of my enemies… so if I can profile people, I can shoot people. 1+1=2, creepy, silly, funny, and wrong in real life.

    Robin Hood, ha, you dont give the money away… Running after a robber who stole $200 dollars, I chased him a city block before I tackled him… while stealing more than $15000 dollars from people I ran pass at the time 😛 IMA HERO!!!… and I kept the $200 dollars and got XP and Rep.

    I did have a women on a phone texting how she hit and ran over a cat, and then came back and found the cat still alive so she ran over the cat again… I hit her with a car.

    • My priest in WoW (that I haven’t played in a while) has a bag and a half of heads in the bank from major raid bosses (ossirian, nef etc) and quest NPCs

  • Newsflash! Some gamers are awful!

    if it doesn’t surprise you, why write an article about it?

    You might as well write about how the sky is blue or that water is wet.

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  • I always hunt the israel supporters and when in a criminal pursuit i usually just shoot them in the back of the head if they’re black and arrest if they’re white.

  • I wonder if there is information gathered on which NPC’s the player shoots?

  • Why did the guy in the video shoot the Asexual?? I would have thought not being interested in any sex is the most inoffensive sexuality you could possibly get??

    • That’s the joke, dude was shooting everyone

      first it starts out with racist shit like black only, then it slowly getting weirder and weirder like one writers fanfics.

  • I’ve gotta admit – the first time I saw someone here noting that they could see if a potential victim was a chemo patient or whatever, my first thought was: I wonder if Ubi is collecting this information. What kind of trends will they see?

    Honestly? I’m probably pathetically romantic, but I honestly kind of thought that one of the trends we would see is people acting out their morality, avoiding theft from chemo patients, targeting only social malcontents. I genuinely thought that would be something that would show up.

    I never even imagined this, it simply didn’t occur. I need to put a few more points in cynicism.

  • People on 4chan are racist and when they play video games they are racist. Really? Really? “Call me cynical, but the fact some players would do things like this doesn’t surprise me.” Yea me either, probably not worth a story then.

  • But just because some part of the whole thing seems to be in jest, or perhaps a ploy to seek attention, doesn’t make the “joke” any less unnerving.

    I think it does. What’s more unnerving is the education system seemingly failing writers. We have some disgustingly selective perspectives being shown by the games media that perpetuates a perspective. ONE perspective. A single perspective that waves its little finger at everyone else and uses the exact same techniques as extreme right wing and WW2 propaganda to get their points across. Damning language and indirect assumption of moral perspective work together to paint a pretty ignorant picture.

    It’s a damn video game, it allows for what isn’t possible in the real world. We could throw our stupid uneducated selves into this arena and start talking about how “unnerving” it is to see people challenge your personal insecurities but then we wouldn’t be using a shred of empathy. That little tool of perspective that actually helps you understand others. See, it’s quite different than judgement or moral panic frequently used here.

    Why would people challenge the norm? Why would people act provocatively? We ask these questions of ourselves but rarely of others. We can, as individuals challenge but when others do it we judge and push our morals through our writing. I would just love for once, writers here actually treat community as if they aren’t completely braindead morons who just have to be told how unnerving their virtual actions are.

    Please, for once, just empathize with people for once. Leave the moral perspective alone, there’s some interesting stuff here but we’re constantly foregoing genuine insightful discussion in the social value of video games but we get a finger wagged all the way through. People are challenging you and by virtue of treating them all as if they’re less than you are by way of moral judgement you’re just falling into their hands/missing the point.

  • “This was apparent before the game even officially out.”
    Jesus, does this person even proofread? I doubt it cause to even have a topic like this you have to be spewing nonsense

  • I find the video really funny. It started off with the minorities that makes the news and slowly includes everyone with any category. Just like in RL, haters gonna hate, not matter what background a person came from, or simply because he enjoys porn in anime.

  • I love this stuff, watching the media and low life bloggists get wound up something fierce LOL.

    You have to admire them though, being unable to see themselves from the outside as they just say more and more stupid things, thinking everyone else is just as clownish as they are. Great entertainers for sure.

    I do wonder if they’re just incapable of suspending their moral compass like us normal people folk lol. Why does Patricia still think people could ever take her seriously?

    It’s a video game. I can suspend my moral compass as there are no actual consequences in either direction. This is because I am an adult with a healthy brain. Are you, Partricia and friends?

    Same old laughable topic as always lol. I find your “articles” cheer me up on a day when I have a day where I think “am I stupid or out of touch with reality yet?”. Works a treat. Kotaku has become a site of satire.

  • This is probably the stupidest idea I have ever read. The idea that people would somehow reciprocate the things they performed in this game makes me think we have just gone back to the dark ages of thinking “video games cause violence”. News flash, it’s a video game. The ‘people’ in this game are nothing but randomised people given traits and occupations drawn out of a hat and made of nothing but code. What difference does it make which ones someone kills in a game? Would you have a problem if he only went around killing normal people? Not to mention, you have proof of one person doing this when this is the highest selling game made by Ubisoft to date and it has been out for a few weeks. This is another case of someone trying to get a rise and bitching because their feelings were hurt. It’s a game meant for entertainment, so just play the game or don’t, don’t complain about it.

  • Are you kidding me with this post?!?! The very video you post shows this guy shooting down an “avid video game player”!! Give me a break you reactionary shill!

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