Hacking The Gibson

I did something faintly unusual yesterday, which is I voluntarily went out of my way to look up marketing material for an upcoming game, the game in question being Watch Dogs 2. I haven’t played the first, but I have heard enough about it to know I don’t particularly need to. The first game is widely regarded as “not good”- for agame supposedly about a hacker, too much of the game involves bog standard shootouts and the main character was focus-tested into a confused, thuggishly unpleasant mess.

So far, it seems the sequel has learned from this. The gameplay shown off so far focuses far more on using gadgets than guns and the characters seem like goofy caricatures rather than “edgy” badasses. It releases pretty soon, although there’s no chance I’m going to get it until it’s been out long enough to tell if its actually a significant improvement.

However, if it meets all my expectations, it’ll be almost exactly like a slightly updated video game version of 1995’s best film.

That film is of course, Hackers. It’s a cult film with mostly obscure actors although it does have a young Angelina Jolie in it. I say cult film, because as a movie about hacker society and internet cybercrime released in 1995 before the internet was a big thing, it flopped hard at the box office. Luckily for it and us though, time has been kind to the earnestly serious attempt at 90’s cool and turned it into an unintentional parody.

For example, I’m decently sure that the hacking techniques in the film were laughably wrong even then, and time has made them seem even more ludicrous: there’s an important scene that involves payphones,  people use pagers, ships can be sunk by viruses- the list goes on.

Just as good as the portrayal of the internet is the treatment of the heroes. For high schoolers who are way too into computers, the hackers are certainly cool cats. They rollerblade of course, and they even have a special hackers only cyberpunk nightclub where whoever has the high score on the arcades is king! I also get a kick out of the hacker pseudonyms, specifically how all of them are properly-spelled real words and the idea that one of the guys hasn’t even earned his yet.

There’s a special kind of innocence to the whole thing as well; the main character plays pranks on a secret service agent that would probably qualify as domestic terrorism these days. There’s also the fact that while most of the movie centres around hacking into a large corporation, but it’s not actually the corp that’s evil, it’s a bad hacker working for them.

To summarize: if you want to laugh at the 90’s getting the internet and coolness wrong in a decent action film, then this is for you. It’s definitely for me.

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