Once a game is established and becomes popular among the masses it really can’t reinvent itself in future iterations. At times this can be both a positive and a negative for a variety of reasons. Watch Dogs 2 builds atop the themes of the first game, but takes an evolved approach thanks to a compelling protagonist reflective of society today.
The biggest change in Watch Dogs 2 is the addition of a new protagonist. While many players enjoyed the first Watch Dogs they found that Aiden Pierce, the main character, was too dour and not exactly personable. Thus enters Marcus Holloway in Watch Dogs 2 as the latest recruit in the hacker group DedSec.
“It started with the audition,” says actor Ruffin Prentiss in an interview with Two Left Sticks. “I got a call from my agent and she told me I had an audition for a video game. It wasn’t just voiceover, it was an actual in-person audition similar to a typical TV audition. When I read the material, I remember thinking how much I enjoyed the writing of the audition sides, however the name of the project and the name of the character were not real. It was only after I was given the role, that I flew up to Montreal to meet with the director and creative team and they told me what game I was working on and my character’s true name.”
Being new to the video game industry, Watch Dogs 2 marked a change of direction for Ruffin as an actor. Sometimes daunting for actors uninitiated in the process, Ruffin took the performance capture process in stride. “I view moap as the perfect mix between theater and television work. You get the full range of your imagination similar to working on stage but you also have cameras following you and capturing the performance. Working on the game was simply a lot of fun. It doesn’t hurt that the cast and crew were amazing either!”
“The hardest adjustment was getting use to the facial cameras,” Ruffin went on to say.. “With a camera rigged about six inches from your face it takes a while for your spatial awareness to adjust. Sometimes a scene that required close proximity to another actor would end up with the cameras knocking into each other. No one would get hurt but it would definitely catch you off guard.”
Tackling the same pertinent modern issues, there’s an air of levity within Watch Dogs 2 thanks to characters such as Marcus. Whereas Aiden was a brooding rogue who some players considered slightly psychotic, Marcus seems like the type of guy that players may know in their real lives.
It’s attributes such as this that Ruffin and the team at Ubisoft Montreal strived for when creating Watch Dogs 2. “My ability to give input on Marcus is one of my favorite parts of this process. The dev team had created such an amazing character and put him in fun and engaging circumstances but I loved that they were willing to let me play with the way he spoke and dealt with situations,” said Ruffin.
Speaking of the traits he shares with the character, Ruffin went on to say, “A trait that we both share is a playful silly side. I think Marcus and I act similarly when we are hanging out with our friends. I hope the fans like hanging out with Marcus as much as I have.”
A notable distinction of Watch Dogs 2 is that it’s one of the rare games to feature an African-American protagonist. Games in the past have featured people of color, but despite the climate of today it’s not often that we see major games with thoughtful depictions of various ethnicities in lead roles.
Indicative of modern society, the character of Marcus Holloway could bring new players to the franchise thanks to his depiction. On Marcus’ impact in the video game landscape Ruffin said, “An African-American protagonist that breaks some of the conventions we have become accustomed to seeing is exciting to me. Marcus is a self taught programmer, hacker, and social engineer. The story of African American programmers and hackers hasn’t been told nearly enough. And trust me, they do exist in the real world!”
Hacking hasn’t been a major element in other mediums such as film or TV. And when it’s often represented it’s often devoid of diversity, save for stereotypes. Besides the eclectic cast depicted over twenty years ago in the film Hackers, African-American hackers haven’t been represented in many mediums at all. And in the rare chance that they are, such as in Transformers, it’s often as woefully executed comic relief. It’s refreshing to see Ruffin and Ubisoft dedicated to provide an element of hacker culture rarely seen in most mediums.
But there are of course deeper elements to the arrival of Marcus in Watch Dogs 2. Given the lack of diversity in games, Marcus could be a character that people connection with. “I felt an immense responsibility and honor to have this opportunity to tell this story and give it my all. This character represents all the African American people who work in the tech industry but rarely have characters in entertainment that reflect their experience,” says Ruffin on the personal impact the opportunity had on him. “ My hope is that the kid who dreams of being a computer programmer sees this game or this character and feels even more so that they can follow that dream.”
Watch Dogs 2 once again delves into the impact the digital era has on people and their privacy. With people’s digital footprint larger than ever due to the omnipresence of the internet, it’s easier for someone to lose everything in the blink of an eye.
“I think the growth of the digital/internet era has been exponential over the last decade. From social media to online banking, everything is accessible from the palm of your hand. While that is amazing, at the same time there is a lot of danger in that. To me it is almost as if all your personal information is floating in the air. We have created an amazing and exciting lifestyle for ourselves online but I think it’s imperative that we educate ourselves on how to protect that information. There’s too much we can lose now,” said Ruffin.
The first Watch Dogs had somewhat limited hacking options. but players still had fun messing with the citizens of Chicago. With new tools in Watch Dogs 2 there’s more mayhem to cause for the sake of a giggle. On the hacking ability he would use Ruffin says, “I am obsessed with being able to hack cars. I think I would go to the mall with some friends and move their car to another parking spot with my phone. When we’re leaving I would watch them panic and freak out. A little cruel but it’d be pretty funny.”
Marcus won’t be alone in his journey as he’ll be with his DedSec crew. It’s these DedSec characters that Ruffin enjoyed the most within the game.
“I truly loved shooting with my Dedsec crew. I just think the dynamic of the group is so much fun. We all became friends in real life and I think the interaction in the game is going to convey that. You’ll have a lot of fun from mission to mission because you never know what to expect when you interact with the Dedsec members.”
Twitter, YouTube, and NeoGAF are where players voice their opinions if a game is meeting or failing their expectations. So far the pre-release footage for Watch Dogs 2 has left players feeling good about the potential of the game.
On the fan feedback Ruffin said, “My goal as an actor is to reach people. You never know what people are dealing with in their lives and I think each role you play as an actor is an opportunity for someone to relate to that character. The Watch Dogs 2 fans are simply the best!”
Ruffin went on to say, “I think I can speak for my cast when I say we can’t wait to see the reaction when the game is finally released. We poured ourselves and passion into this game and I think it is going to come through in the performance and story.”
Ubisoft is clearly positioning Watch Dogs as a key pillar of the company along with Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry. So while players will likely get a new Watch Dogs in a few years, will they see Marcus again?
“I think it’s always cool to see how characters mature over time. Just like we do in real life, I would want to explore how Marcus’ interests and goals change. How he uses his skill and experience to create even more change. I also think seeing Marcus in a new place would be fun to explore. There are a lot of great cities across the world and like we said earlier, your digital footprint follows you wherever you go,” said Ruffin.
New to the world of video games, Ruffin has provided a personable performance with Marcus since he’s a character players can liken themselves to. Creative decisions such as these could make Watch Dogs 2 a surprise of the year once it arrives on November 15th.
If you want to stay up to date with Ruffin you can scope out his Twitter.