Making video games seems like the most awesome job in the world, provided you know absolutely nothing about it. We like to think of the developers as cool, laidback people who never wear pants, like Internet comedy writers. It's easy to forget that they are in fact at the center of a billion-dollar industry, with everything that entails: financiers breathing down their necks, lots of stress, and shady schemes that would make Wario say, "Dude. Come on. Have some decency."

Sometimes, in the process of creating fun diversions for the world to enjoy, video game developers end up crossing some moral, legal, and ethical lines. Like when ...

Bioshock Turned Disfigured Soldiers Into Mutated Enemies

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories
2K Games

Designing grotesque, deformed monsters for video games can be a great opportunity for artists to stretch their creative muscles. Should you add an extra arm coming out of their forehead? An extra forehead coming out of their arm? The sky, and your imagination, is the limit!

Or, alternatively, they can look at a photographic database of disfigured war veterans and copy from there, assuming they're not concerned with matters like "ethics" or "basic human decency."

2K Games

Or "not going to hell for this."

That is a photo of Henry Lumley, a World War I pilot who suffered excruciating burns, followed by a BioShock monster enemy called, um, "Toasty." And that's not the only example of this. In an interview about the making of the game, one staffer admitted that some Splicers (the aforementioned monsters) were inspired by the work of Harold Gillies, a plastic surgeon who specialized in reconstructing the faces of soldiers who suffered horrific injuries during WWI. So it's not like they Googled "creepy faces" and had no idea that these were real people they were using.

For example, this is Walter Yeo, a sailor who was injured during battle, followed by the design of another bad guy, known as a "Wader":

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories
2K Games

The ultimate insult was giving him James Franco's hair.

Don't get us wrong; we understand using history as inspiration for fiction. It's just that when you use the likenesses of real-life veterans (with living relatives, natch) as bullet sponges for your pseudo-philosophical hero fantasy, that's when you come out of this looking like an asshole. At least BioShock's staff promised they wouldn't do this again, though if you're ever in charge of a burn ward and you see one of them hanging around with a sketchpad, we'd still call the cops.

EA Conspired To Screw Student Athletes Out Of Money

Electronic Arts

For many athletes, appearing in a video game must be a dream come true. But you know what's even better? Appearing in a video game with your full knowledge and consent, and not having some greedy bastards pocket the money.

Electronic Arts

"EA Sports: It's in the game (without its permission)."

The NCAA Football series by EA Games, for instance, routinely stole the likenesses of real-life college athletes and refused to pay them for the privilege. And when we say "steal," we mean it -- the rosters of these games were packed with players with identical abilities, positions, and player numbers to their real-life counterparts, the only difference being that they don't share names and that Donald Sutherland can't set fire to any of them.

Johnny Manziel OB #2 Jadeveon Clowney RE #7 Sophomore (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior Junior 6'1. 210 lbs. 6'1. 205 lbs. 6'6. 274 lbs. 6'6. 256 lbs. fr

And the lack of dreadlocks, but that's because the technology to render them convincingly doesn't exist yet.

EA used the fact that they didn't use the players' real names as proof that, nuh-uh, they weren't a bunch of plagiarizing shitmongers ... until their own internal emails proved that during the making of each game, they did use everyone's names, and only pseudonym-ized them up at the last minute. Oh, and before a couple of pissed-off players launched a lawsuit, the NCAA and EA were planning to drop the pretense and use the players' real names anyway.

But what happens when an athlete doesn't want to be in a game? If they're a UFC fighter, tough shit. In 2008, both UFC fans in the world were stunned by the news that Jon Fitch had been sacked from the tender sport of getting the ever-loving shit kicked out of him (his loved ones were presumably much happier about this news). Why? Because the UFC were trying to force him to sign away his likeness to the UFC Undisputed for life with fuck-all compensation to show for it.

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories
Electronic Arts

Just being part of this should be compensation enough.

Fitch eventually rejoined, because regardless of how shitty the pay is, it's better than unemployment or getting an office job, apparently.

Halo 2 Was Delayed Because Someone Hid An Ass In It

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories
Microsoft Studios

You know what fanbase gets a bad rap? The Halo crowd. Sure, there are some racist, sexist, squeaky-voiced mouth-breathers with bodies composed of two parts Mountain Dew and three parts puberty juices, but the vast majority are ordinary people who simply live for the game and don't care about immature bullshit.

Anyway, here's how they got fucked over because of one of the developers hiding a picture of a butt in a game.

Games PC DVD for Windows HALO 2 lachuades 23 11NS ( Multiplauer Maps M A 00MA00 Microsoft BUNGIE 00
Microsoft Studios

We always knew that's what Master Chief looked like under the helmet.

During the making of Halo 2, Microsoft's then-CEO Steve Ballmer decided to pay a visit to Bungie, the creators of the series, and thank them for making such a successful franchise that his appointment almost seemed like a good idea. In response, one of the engineers secretly mooned him, with the whole thing being caught on camera. Several months down the road, the developers were being stymied by something called an ".ass error" and realized they had the perfect image to represent it:

Error Report x  Plane10 hae noD-uniform node scale, X-axis value exported. OK  Plane06 has onenforr node scale, Xaxis value exported
Microsoft Studios

Be glad it wasn't a .pns error.

This error message ended up being buried in the code of the released version of the game. Still, that's not so terrible. It wasn't like there had recently been an entirely separate huge scandal about video game nudity that had sent moms everywhere crazy ... oh, whoops.

Once Microsoft confessed what happened to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, they lost their shit. In the end, Microsoft's options were simple: attach stickers to the game's box which warned gamers about the hot, explicit ass content (you know, in case the game influenced them into ... having butts), or release the game as it was and be fined all of their money. They decided to go with the former, for an estimated cost of $500,000 and a missed release date. They later released a patch removing the error message in its entirety, and to make sure this never happened again, they released another patch removing some of the individuals responsible from their jobs.

Flappy Bird Shamelessly Ripped Off An Obscure French Game

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories
.GEARS Studios

The most popular game of 2014 wasn't Grand Theft Auto V or Destiny or Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It was freaking Flappy Bird, the annoying app 50 million masochists downloaded into their phones. While no one would call it "good" or "fun" or "competently made," Flappy Bird was still addictive as hell, and it's hard not to feel sympathy for its creator. Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen whipped the game up in a few days, and was so overwhelmed by its success that he ended up taking it down, despite the fact that it was making him an estimated $50,000 per day.

Well, let us kill that sympathy right off. Check this Quentin Tarantino shit out:

Kek Zanorg

Piou Piou vs. Cactus (2011)

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories
.GEARS Studios

Flappy Bird (2013)

When Flappy Bird was released, many were quick to point out its similarities with the Internet relic that is The Helicopter Game. However, those similarities pale in comparison to how badly Flappy Bird ripped off Piou Piou vs. Cactus -- a game in which you have to guide a yellow, big-lipped bird through a maze of green obstacles. Oddly enough, the developer of Piou Piou didn't appreciate the "homage" and contacted Nguyen, who claimed the similarities were entirely coincidental. With little legal recourse (small-time app developers aren't known for their vast armies of lawyers), we like to imagine that he went on to work on a new game in which you kick a character called Nong Dguyen in the balls for all eternity.

And there's another thing. According to a researcher who looked into how Flappy Bird was able to go viral faster than Ebola in an airport, the game's popularity was due to a huge spike in downloads in December 2013. That's not really weird for a new game, but Flappy Bird wasn't a new release. It was originally released in May 2013 to a fanfare of jack-all. Coincidentally, other games by the same creator had similar spikes at the same time (there was zero cross-promotion between them).

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories

"I just forgot to tap the screen before that."

The theory is that this spike was caused by bots and/or fake accounts downloading the game thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times, in order to elevate its store ranking to a point where people would see it (with the crowd and media then doing the rest of the work). Others have noted that the reviews for the game seem to repeat phrases like "Satan himself," "worst mistake," "ruined my life," and "do not download this game," but that seems completely normal to us.

The Madden Football Series Is Built On Thievery

Electronic Arts

Before gamers everywhere had signed their souls away to Bethesda in return for Elder Scrolls and Fallout, the company was in the sports game business with Gridiron!. Although the graphics were a perfect simulation of watching a football game as played between ants from the top of a mountain, Gridiron! was blessed with an amazing physics engine that kick-started the most popular football video game series ever. Because they fucking stole it from Bethesda. Who? Glad you asked.

Electronic Arts

"EA Sports: It's in the game (someone else's, but also ours soon)."

Back in 1987, Gridiron! was kicking ass both critically and commercially. Right on cue, EA swooped in with an offer: If Bethesda used their football expertise to help them start a brand-new franchise (named after some guy), EA would publish the future Gridiron! games. Bethesda held up their end of the bargain ... but then EA never published Gridiron!. They did, however, happily publish a game called John Madden Football, featuring impressively realistic, Gridiron!-like physics.

Electronic Arts

John Madden is actually half Kryptonian, half Kool Aid.

If we were in this situation, we would have guessed that EA only joined forces to get their hands on that goddamn physics engine before leaving us in the dust. That was Bethesda's conclusion. In 1988, they filed a lawsuit against EA for $7.3 million in damages (the results of which aren't public). With their partnership dead and their Game Of Thrones-esque plot over, EA continued the Madden franchise and begun their noble quest to force everyone associated with video games to hate them.

Tecmo Steals And Publishes An Unfinished Version Of Dead Or Alive 2

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories

The Dead Or Alive fighting game series is an underrated masterpiece of dystopian fiction. Set in a world where an oppressive government regime has outlawed clothing, it follows a group of martial artists fighting to bring down The Man before their improbable breasts cause their spines to give out and erupt from their bodies like the chestburster in Alien.

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories

They took the two seconds when you can see Chun-Li's panties in Street Fighter II and said "Let's make a whole game out of that."

Rather surprisingly, Dead Or Alive 2 wasn't a laugh riot to make. The game's designers were only given a ridiculous three months to port it from Dreamcast to PlayStation 2, causing them much panic and many sleepless nights. But don't worry, the torture didn't last long ... because the game's publisher, Tecmo, up and decided to publish the game whether it was finished or not.

According to series creator Tomonobu Itagaki, an executive sidled up to him one day and asked to borrow the then-unfinished PS2 version of the game. Itagaki, probably figuring the guy just needed some "alone time," lent him the game -- unaware that it would be taken to the production line and then swiftly released for sale. Shockingly, it didn't get great reviews. It was called "buggy as hell," "really honking ugly," "truly obnoxious," "disappointing," and "embarrassing," and that's only one reviewer.


How the hell is anyone supposed to masturbate to this polygon count?

As a result of this treachery, the development team found themselves in a purgatorial disarray -- not least of all Itagaki. Aside from questioning whether to return to video games, he fell into a deep depression and spent months at home drinking, listening to Aerosmith, and watching Armageddon. That's how depressed he was; he listened to "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" over and over to make himself less sad.

Steve Wozniak Programs Breakout, Gets Conned By Steve Jobs

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories

Breakout is possibly one of the most important video games of all time. If you don't see why, it was the equivalent of Fallout 4 being dropped into an era when the only forms of entertainment were staring at sunsets, reading, or fighting in Vietnam.

7 Classic Video Games With Horrifying Backstories

This is equally likely to trigger flashbacks, though.

Although designed by Nolan Bushnell, two other guys deserve credit for getting the game to work in the first place: future Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. You might have heard of them. At the time, Jobs was tasked by Bushnell to deliver a working prototype of the game. In addition, he was offered a $100 bonus for every microchip -- which were super-expensive at the time -- that he removed from Bushnell's design. Jobs took the assignment, and promptly realized he had no idea how to do it. He stank at designing circuit boards, and also stank in general (he had to work the night shift at Atari because he was so smelly).

Unable to get a prototype working, Jobs called in Wozniak to help out. After being offered half of the proceeds, Wozniak delivered the prototype in four (sleepless) nights and, amazingly, was able to remove 50 microchips from the design, netting a bonus of $5,000 on top of their base fee of $750.

Wozniak was paid $350. In total.

NO ADMIT aoum l
Stephane De Luca


As it turned out, Jobs never told him about the bonus, and so pocketed the whole thing for himself. Clearly, it wasn't only Jobs' career that was started out -- it was also his assholish nature. In an interview several decades later, Wozniak admitted that he didn't really care about the money, and was merely happy to have helped create the game. That's all well and good, but considering the amount of work he put in, we can't help but imagine an alternate reality in which he discovered the treachery and stomped some turtlenecks. It'd make for a present with a lot fewer iPhones, that's for sure.

When Adam isn't plotting the downfall of his fellow writers, he tweets on Twitter. He also has an email address, where you can contact him with compliments / complaints / evil schemes.

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