While the hacking that takes place within the Watch Dogs franchise is simplified, it does represent many actual things that hackers use their skill for, however, there's one thing hackers do in real life that the games can't quite copy. A large part of what hackers do doesn't necessarily take place in front a keyboard, but it instead involves dealing with people directly. I asked Watch Dogs Brand Director Thomas Geffroyd, a hacker himself, what aspect of hacking he would like to see in a future game that he hasn't been able to include yet. His answer was what hackers call social engineering.
One thing I personally would like to see but it's really hard to pull out with the games is social engineering, which is a big part of the hacking activities, but it's really hard to nail for so many reasons because we would have to play with facial animations and it would have to be super close-up, everything would have to be HD. This is something I would really love to see at some point and especially manipulating people, but it involves a lot of tech we don't have yet.
Last week I got to attend a Watch Dogs 2 event in San Francisco where I learned a great deal more about real life hacking than I had ever known. Social engineering is a form of hacking you're actually familiar with, even if the term is new in that context. It's essentially the hacking of people through the use of psychological manipulation. In some cases, it can involve dealing with people in circumstances not dissimilar to confidence games. However, it often takes the form of hacking techniques you may be familiar with, like phishing, where somebody attempts to get a users password by tricking them into providing it themselves, rather than breaking into a system to get it.
The primary stumbling block appears to be the technology, which simply doesn't give Watch Dogs the ability to do something like that within the context of the existing game. You'd need to create NPC characters that you could interact with in specific ways, and be able to tell by watching their response how to proceed in order to get the information that you want. In order to prey on human psychology, you have to give your character psychology to prey upon.
While Watch Dogs simplifies hacking to a large extent in order to make the gameplay more enjoyable, in the case of social engineering it simply wouldn't work as well. Pressing X in order to hack a traffic light cuts out the boring part of writing code. Pressing X to convince a character to give you their password eliminates the aspect of that interaction which is interesting and the part that Thomas Geffroyd would like to see in the game.
The closest thing I can think of that went down a path like this would be Rockstar's L.A. Noire. That game used facial motion capture technology to allow you to watch people's expressions change as you interrogated them, which you could use to try and figure out if they were lying. The difference here is likely that L.A. Noire essentially built their entire game around this mechanic, while Watch Dogs would want to simply include it among all the other aspects of hacking that their games would entail.
Gaming tech is getting more advanced all the time. We're already seeing higher level consoles in the case of the forthcoming PS4 Pro and next year's Xbox, codenamed Scorpio, nevermind the constant evolution of the PC. Perhaps we're not too far away from a point where you may have a choice as to how you approach a Watch Dogs mission when you can either hack their laptop or convince them that you work for their bank and need their account number in order to stop a fraudulent charge to their account.