When Celebrities Attack: The Ugly Battles Between Game Publishers And The Rich And Famous
With video games getting bigger every year, several celebrities have embraced them as an effective way to market themselves. Unfortunately, the mutually beneficial relationships between game publishers and celebrities can go sour, leading to publicly hostile interactions and even lawsuits. In many cases, the lawsuits are downright outlandish. Check out some of the more famous feuds between video games and celebrities.
Ellen Page – The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls
During a 2013 Reddit AMA, the actress accused Naughty Dog of ripping off her likeness for the character of Ellie. “I guess I should be flattered that they ripped off my likeness,” she said. “But I am actually acting in a video game called Beyond: Two Souls, so it was not appreciated.” The relationship with Beyond: Two Souls developer Quantic Dream also grew problematic when a debugged PlayStation 3 allowed a player to view Ellen Page’s character from different angles during shower scenes. Sony quickly moved to have the images and videos taken down and confirmed that the body shots were not of Page, but rather a digital model.
Michael “Shagg” Washington – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Cypress Hill’s backup singer thought the protagonist of GTA: San Andreas looked too familiar, so in 2010 he filed a lawsuit against Rockstar Games asking for a whopping 25 percent of the company’s profits. Washington claimed he met with Rockstar in 2003 to talk about various aspects of his troubled childhood, which he alleged were used in the story of the main character CJ. In 2012, Washington lost the case against Rockstar, with the judge pointing out that CJ’s likeness and story could have been based on any number of individuals.
Lindsay Lohan and Karen Gravano – Grand Theft Auto V
In 2014, Lohan filed a lawsuit claiming that her likeness, voice, and clothing line were being used in GTA V without permission. Karen Gravano from reality show Mob Wives also filed a lawsuit accusing Rockstar of using her likeness and story for one of the characters in the game. Rockstar has filed papers to have both cases thrown out.
Justin Bieber – Joustin’ Beaver
In 2012, an Android app developer called RC3 released a game called Joustin’ Beaver in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the singer. When Bieber’s camp delivered a cease and desist letter, RC3 filed a lawsuit against Bieber, claiming that the game is a parody and is therefore protected under the First Amendment. Though the judge rejected RC3’s lawsuit in Florida in 2012, the app is still available for purchase on the iOS App Store and Google Play store.
Manuel Noriega – Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Manuel Noriega was not a fan of his appearance in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which led the former Panamanian dictator to file a lawsuit against Activision in 2014. Noriega sought damages for his negative depiction within the game. In late 2014, however, the lawsuit was dismissed.
Uri Geller – Pokémon
The illusionist took issue with one of Nintendo’s most prized franchises when he noticed the telekinetic Pokémon Kadabra. In 2000, Geller claimed that the bent spoon carried by Kadabra was ripping off one of his trademark performances and that the Japanese spelling of Kadabra’s name was visually similar to the spelling of Geller’s name in Japanese. In addition, Geller noted that Kadabra’s lightning bolts on its abdomen were anti-Semitic due to it being similar to Nazi symbolism. Due to this feud, Kadabra has not appeared in the Pokémon Trading Card Game since 2003 or the anime since 2006.
Jim Brown – Madden NFL
Appearing in Madden is not one of the legendary running back’s proudest accomplishments, as Brown filed a lawsuit in 2008 against Sony and EA Sports alleging that they used his likeness without his permission. The lawsuit was tossed out by a judge who stated Brown’s inclusion in the game was Electronic Arts exercising its First Amendment rights as the in-game character in question was given an anonymous name and possessed a different jersey number.
Activision’s Guitar Hero franchise holds the record for irritating the most celebrities over the course of its lifetime.
Harmonix and Activision licensed The Romantics‘ “What I Like About You” for a cover version of the song in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the ’80s, but when the band fired up the game, they noticed that the cover sounded good. So good, in fact, that the band filed a lawsuit in 2007 saying that the cover version was indistinguishable from their original version. The lawsuit was thrown out by a judge in 2008.
The next entry, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, moved Axl Rose to take litigious action as well. The Guns N’ Roses frontman had some choice thoughts for Activision after he saw a digital version of his former bandmate Slash playing “Welcome to the Jungle” in Guitar Hero III. Rose took to the courts in 2010, filing a lawsuit against Activision claiming that he had only licensed the song to be used in a promotional nature at a tradeshow. Judges later threw out the lawsuits, citing Rose’s three-year delay in filing as the cause.
Following the discovery that players could use the deceased Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s digital likeness in any song in Guitar Hero 5, his widow Courtney Love and former bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic publicly expressed their disappointment in how Cobain was represented. Grohl and Novoselic even went as far as to plead to Activision to “do the right thing” and lock Cobain to Nirvana songs. Jon Bon Jovi also chimed in, stating that it would be weird to see his digital likeness with someone else’s voice coming out of it. No Doubt and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine were also upset with the way their digital likenesses were represented in Band Hero, with each party filing lawsuits against Activision for their appearances.
the author Brian Shea