For a major city with a rich history, the number of video games set in Chicago is surprisingly small. The open-world “Watch Dogs” is the first attempt to create a reasonable simulation of the city but it started out just one of many from a list that included mainstay settings like Los Angeles, according to an Examiner interview with creative director Jonathan Morin.
“When you choose to make a setting, it’s starts with a huge list and then [the list of cities] shrinks down. We had to do research on more than one city definitely. Some of the criteria that force certain cities to not make it, like LA was discussed but it didn’t make it,” Morin said before talking moving into the criteria that they were looking for in a city.
“We wanted to make a game about surveillance as well as big data and all of that. Coming from Montreal, we wanted a city that was a bit more pressing, like California has very large streets and cities that have a lot of space in them. I guess we were emotionally attached to smaller, dark alleys with red bricks that surround you. You can feel through the city, through the architecture, through the density, all of the oppression that those cameras can have. The rest of it was that we wanted to challenge ourselves in making a very dense city.
“I think cities in games have been done really well by other companies,” he continued. “We wanted to find a city that nobody explored, Chicago was a unique pick for that and becoming a really popular area for tourists, but at the same time, that was pure luck. The fact that Chicago has an entire underground results in very appealing and challenging stuff to do there. “
Morin then explained that Chicago was a selling point to the development team behind “Watch Dogs” as well.
“As weird as it sounds, to attract talented people you want to have appealing challenges, so when you sell the idea of building Chicago, you can pick the worst possible spot of density and say, ‘you’re going to have to build that.’ Suddenly, people are really enticed to challenge and surpass themselves.”