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Finding Ubisoft's Chicago: "Mad Mile"

A series I've been working on since December 2015. Looking for where Ubisoft got the inspiration for "Watch Dogs'" version of Chicago.


The Mad Mile in Watch Dogs is based on the real-life Magnificent Mile district of Chicago. A high-end area of upper-class shops and eateries. Even in November of 2016, it's a busy area despite the Windy City's known colder temperatures, so there is a reason Ubisoft called it "Mad Mile." A name I also use too to describe it thanks to this game.

Of course in the game the area looks like a futuristic Toronto; rather than an older, rustic, historical locality with a high-end resurgence. When I first went to Chicago there was, of course, Ditka's, the best views from the John Hancock Building, and stores that you can only find in an actual city like Chicago (Bloomingdale's, Boyd's, etc.) you know the high-end joints people from Baltimore can't afford. The thing that really blew my mind, of course, was a car dealership that had a Bugatti Veyron for sale. Yeah . . . Definitely not like any place in Baltimore I assure you. If ever I wanted to feel like a country bumpkin out of my element, yet somehow still welcome, Magnificent Mile was the part of town for it.

Other Regions of Chicago Covered:

"Mad Mile" Part 1

(A1) 2nd Regiment Armory/Harpo Studios

Ok, so Ubisoft just comes flat out and tells us, in the info card, that they couldn't truly incorporate this location for legal reasons. Well let's be real for a second, folks, I think you realize now by this point that everything in Watch Dogs was switched around for legal reasons. However, there's no better reason than this location, which was the site where the victims of the Chicago Eastland Disaster were brought for families to identify. Later on, this very building was Incorporated into a section of Harpo Studios where Oprah Winfrey has produced pretty much every movie and television production that has her direct involvement. There had been stories for years of ghost sightings in and around the building. All of whom victims of the Eastland Disaster. YOU get a haunting, and YOU get a haunting, and YOU get a haunting . . .

(B1) WKZ-TV Mad Mile/NBC Tower

So the WKZ-TV that was in "The Loop", in real life, is actually ABC affiliate WLS-TV. However in the fictional who-gives-a-crap-about-getting-it-right world of Watch Dogs, there's only one news program affiliate (keep it simple like the free roam map, why not?). Of course in real life, this particular "Mad Mile" WKZ-TV is actually based on NBC Tower. Confused? I know that's easy for people these days, but really it's as simple as alphabets and basic knowledge of network television.

As you'll see in the comparison pictures below that I didn't really make a great job of this one. Basically, the real-life shot was taken in December 2015, practically by accident, at night, and the in-game one was taken during the day.

(C1) Chicago World News Tower/Tribune Tower

Home to the famous Chicago Tribune newspaper. Completed in 1925 the 36-floor building was always built specifically to house the newspaper. Early in its designs the Tribune's foreign corespondents (no they were white Americans, they just reported stories in foreign lands, remember this was 1925) were encouraged to bring back pieces from world-renowned structures. Bricks, stones, blocks, etc. from places such as The Great Wall of China, the Taj Mihal, the first White Castle that was built at Michigan Avenue, and other man-made gifts of ingenuity, were just some of the places the lower levels of Tribune Tower were constructed with.

In Watch Dogs none of this interesting history is showcased, and instead, is another Gothic style building to fill out the game world. Even the hotspot info card is half heartily written, though they were right about the design of the building coming down to a contest. It's just the rest that's fabrication. Much like modern news media . . . Hmm . . .

(D1) The Sands

Quite simply The Sands was a district of shanties built up North of the Chicago River. It was a den of vice populated by seafaring men and prostitute women. Just with that alone can you image the smell!? Imagine a fish market next to a poorly maintained methane plant. Odor aside The Sands was not a popular place among Chicago's mayors. Yeah, I know, ironic right? I mean the first sign of a brothel and you would imagine every politician within the region to appear there, but no, in this case, The Sands was a problem. A ruse was put in place by then-mayor Long John Wentworth to invite the gambling sailor residents of the neighborhood to a horse track. While away the former mayor William Ogden, who at this point had bought up a lot of the land that was within this district, brought a team of horses in to demolish the poorly built shakes while the "residents" were away at the track.

The counter prank, of course, being a massive looting riot, when the sailors/whores/gamblers/etc. found out the real point of the horse track invitation. The chaos resulted in a neighborhood-wide fire (from whatever the hell was left) after which The Sands was no more, and as usual, Chicago built over it's sorted history with nicer things.

In Watch Dogs there isn't really much of a "The Sands" remnant, just like in real life, but the hotspot info card is located in one of the underground roads that is supposed to be either Lower Wacker or Lower Michigan.

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Read More From Levelskip

(E1) The Crowley Building/The Wrigley Building

It might not surprise you to know that the Wrigley Building was built by the same guy who created Wrigley Field. Oh it doesn't? How about that it was the first Chicago high rise building to have built in air conditioning? No? Well if those factoids don't put a chubby in your history pants than it might be interesting to know that it's the same Wrigley who made Wrigley chewing gum. Now William Wrigley Jr. didn't INVENT chewing gum, but he was the first to be a marketing genius within that particular field. He also offered several flavors that competitors (not like there were many in the late 1800s) didn't have. The guy essentially became a millionaire off of fucking chewing gum! Let that sink in for a minute. This was a time when oil was not yet discovered in the Middle East, people were fighting wars over bananas or something, and guys could have handlebar mustaches without looking like douche try hards. Yes, the turn of the century was an interesting, and simpler, time in the field of marketing.

The Wrigley Building is, of course, one of the quintessential tourist spots in Chicago, and one of the oldest high rises in the country. Even to this day the architecture and structural integrity hold up by today's standards. In Watch Dogs Ubisoft actually did a decent job of recreating the building, however, the courtyard is not as elaborate as depicted in the game. Not sure why they named it Crowley, I mean apart from legal reasons.