Aiden Pearce is possibly the most despicable "hero" of a AAA video game in years. He's the main character in Ubisoft's first Watch Dogs. Pearce is a hacker seeking revenge for the killing of his niece and goes up against mobsters, other hackers, and an evil megacorporation that's running a mass surveillance system on the city of Chicago.
The game wants the player to regard Pearce as a hero since he's the playable character who's supposed to do cool things like hack people's phones and computers, hijack cars, and dole out vigilante justice against the worst people in society after hacking their information. Problem is, Pearce is an utter scumbag whose actions throughout the game only highlight what a scumbag he is. The bad guys he goes after just happen to be marginally worse than he is – he murders people with as much impunity as they do. Yet he's supposed to be the underdog because he's a lone vigilante fighting bad guys with more money, power, and resources than him. But nearly all of his actions throughout the game are utterly scummy. He keeps surveillance on his sister without her consent under the excuse of protecting her and her son. He's constantly stealing money from the hapless people he hacks. He shoots up an entire housing project full of black guys, but the game portrays them as a stereotypical drug gang so that's supposed to be okay.
The game writes Pearce as justified in his actions, and his dialogue and thoughts make him come across like an egotistical sociopath as he hacks, shoots and kills his way through Chicago.
Aiden Pearce Is Not A Hero
The worst part is that Ubisoft always seemed to believe Pearce is a hero in the most tone-deaf manner. His egotism and solipsism are utterly loathsome. The game itself also exemplified Ubisoft's tone-deaf politics and privilege: all the black men on an entire level of the game are drug deals holed up in a housing project to be killed by Pearce. The only black woman in the game is a drugged and terrified sex slave that Pearce rescues. There's also a heavily fascistic tone in the way Pearce is portrayed as utterly justified in his one-man might-makes-right vigilante crusade throughout the game. In light of current news, it's not hard to see in Aiden Pearce and the first game the mentality that drove the culture of sexism, misogyny, racism, and sexual harassment that's been exposed in Ubisoft's corporate culture.
Ubisoft Just Can't Let Him Go
Watch Dogs 2 seemed to indicate that Ubisoft might have realized this by featuring an entirely new set of main hacker characters who are much more likable and relatable. They're idealistic 20somethings fighting against a surveillance state to help people rather than seek personal revenge. Yet Ubisoft still included Pearce in a side mission where Marcus Holloway helps a captured Aiden Pearce escape.
Ubisoft is pushing Watch Dogs: Legion as their biggest and most ambitious video game ever. It gives the player the chance to play almost anyone and everyone encountered in the game's version of London. Virtually every game character is recruitable and playable, which seems to be influenced by Grant Morrison's The Invisibles comic series. And Ubisoft is putting Aiden Pearce into the game as a playable character. This suggests that Ubisoft actually sees Pearce as a popular character and a marketing asset. Is he really given how dislikable he was in the first game? Why Pearce and not one of the more likable characters from Watch Dogs 2? Perhaps it's a way to placate fans of the first game by having Pearce be not only a playable character but also to present him as the main character in the game if the player wants to play that way. Maybe there's also permadeath in the game where if Pearce gets killed, he won't come back and players have to move onto someone new.