In Watch Dogs, the new blockbuster video game, every character who populates the game's near-future version of Chicago has a unique identity that can be "scanned" by the main character, Aiden Pearce.
On Tuesday night, Twitter user @crushingbort published a screenshot of the game in which Pearce has scanned a hoodie-clad dead black man, whose in-game name is "Kavon Fortin."
At the very least, these details bear a disturbing similarity to the infamous 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. While some character details in giant open world games like Watch Dogs are randomly generated, there are also many examples throughout Watch Dogs of so-called "Easter egg" characters winkingly inserted into the game; the actress and comedian Aisha Tyler, for example, makes a cameo.
Subsequent tweets from @crushingbort revealed more details about the context in which he found the "Kavon Fortin" character:
@crushingbort told BuzzFeed that he came across "Fortin" on Tuesday night while playing one of the game's optional "Criminal Convoy" missions:
"You have to track down and take out a group of enemy cars. This group was made up of the 'Viceroys' gang. I'd taken them out except for one guy who was behind a gate shooting at me, so I opened it and shot him. That's when I pulled up his name. As far as I could tell he was one of the backup guys called in," he said.
So there is a black, hoodie-wearing gang member named "Kavon Fortin" whom players can kill in one of the biggest games of the year. That much, at least, is not in dispute.
According to Ubisoft representative Raha Bouda, "When a new NPC is spawned, a new name is randomly generated from a bank of more than 1,000 options — and it’s a random mix of first names and last names. Most of these names are taken from annual most popular names books as well as from building names. Any NPC with the name Kavon Fortin appears by random in the game and it is absolutely not an intentional reference to Trayvon Martin — in fact, these names were solidified in-game before the Trayvon Martin incident."
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
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