In early June, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the first hints of a pervasive government surveillance program. Depending on who you talked to, the NSA could either collect emails with debatable oversight or literally watch people type. Congress and the president denied that the revelations were shocking — in fact, they said, they’d known about them all along.


During the weeks that followed, Ubisoft began ramping up the post-E3 campaign for Watch Dogs, an upcoming action game about a hacker and a world where "smart" cities make everyone both constantly connected and constantly monitored. What would otherwise have been unremarkable became unsettling. “Be prepared for a reality you may not be aware of,” says a promotional site called “We Are Data.” Upon entering viewers can see present-day cities as data maps, with icons for cell towers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and (oddly) public toilets. “Take control over the data now!” exhorts the game’s protagonist, Aiden Pearce. “Turn the city into a weapon against itself.” But can Watch Dogs, part of an ongoing trickle of big-budget action games ostensibly taking on serious subjects, be a meaningful participant in the surveillance conversation?