‘Watch Dogs’ and a Brief History of Apocalyptic Chicago Video Games

From Michael Jordan battling his way through a Goose Island factory, to the WTO and Knights Templar leveling the city in a terrorist attack, to Al Capone’s army of mafia zombies: what Chicago looked like after the fall, then and now.

Via Coudal, it appears that Chicago will finally get the violent video game its attractive, historic skyline deserves: Watch Dogs, one of two (!) upcoming grim Chicago-based entertainments about America after electricity. But it’s even more of-the-now than that. Rather than just being about life after the post-fossil-fuels apocalypse, it knits together both public and private data-gathering paranoia into one conspiracy layer cake—what happens when Facebook and red-light cameras finally shake hands. Whether or not it will challenge Roger Ebert’s contention that video games can’t be art I have no idea, but it’s a bit more contemporary of a crisis than you usually get in shoot-em-ups.

And to think that less than a decade ago it was the WTO in league with the Knights Templar destroying Chicago in a terrorist attack. Paranoia strikes deep, but it’s also flaky.

From the glimpses you get of the city from the trailer, they appear to have done a faithful job with the Loop, promising that inexplicable frisson of pleasure you get from seeing your surroundings mirrored in fiction.

It’s a better treatment than the city usually gets from post-apocalypse video games. Michael Jordan in Chaos in the Windy City (1994) was actually made. Jordan traveled around Chicago saving all-stars in peril to create a team, a plot line that made slightly more sense before Michael Jordan in Chaos in Charlotte (2006-present). Starting at a factory on Goose Island is a nice touch, though.

Emergency Call Ambulance isn’t exactly post-apocalyptic, but it gets apocalypse points for having rocket-launcher-armed Yakuza running Chicago, and it was perfect if you wanted the gameplay Crazy Taxi with the earnestness of ER. But the graphics and geography, for 1999… aren’t bad.

BattleTanx (1998). Thumbs up: driving a tank down State Street. Thumbs down: near-parodic video game heteronormativity. You have to rescue a “Queenlord” from Chicago because a virus killed almost all the women, the remainder of whom are “now treated as holy entities”; there is possibly a time between the ages of 14 and 15 when this would have made sense to me. Also, I do not know who you are trying to fool with this “Tanx” business.

COLONEL: If Capone’s scientist has found a way to revive a man from virtually any degree of death we’re all in serious trouble.
STRANGER: Um hmm. His undead army of evil will walk over the face of the earth.

Nocturne! Things that are more scary than databases: mafia zombies.

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