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The 7 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits in Video Game History 

Stewart Chyou
Updated June 14, 2019 10.8k views 7 items

The crossover combination of legalities and video games isn’t anything new - gaming lawsuits happen all the time. Take for example, people like Patrice Désilets, who have struggled to wrestle back the rights to their games - in his case he had to rescue 1666: Amsterdam from the clutches of Ubisoft, after they wrongfully terminated him. In the world of video games, lawsuits are pretty common as people fight for ownership, censorship, and more. Of course, not every lawsuit makes sense - and some are downright silly. 

It’s important to know when and how to pick your battles when taking the fight to judicial arenas. And over the years, much like non-gaming related legal fisticuffs, what we find betwixt are cases of individuals and parties alike who abuse the judicial system for the pettiest, and sometimes hilarious, of reasons. Whether these lawsuits by gamers are justified or not, they make for interesting reading. 

Get ready to chuckle and strain your neck with constant head shaking, these are the most ridiculous lawsuits in gaming. 

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Digital Homicide v. Jim Sterling
Ranker Video
Video: YouTube

One of YouTube’s most outspoken gaming critics, Jim Sterling, came under fire from Digital Homicide after he posted a video review of their game The Slaughtering Grounds in 2014. Despite the strong title given to his video ("New Worst Game of 2014"), Sterling actually made attempts to try and find positive aspects of the game, which eventually led to frustration as there really weren’t any beyond his commenting of the agreeable frame rate. Overall, nothing too out of line was said from Sterling as he gave a fair assessment of the game demonstrated through his own playthroughs. 

Digital Homicide and Jim Sterling have since made many heated exchanges with one another, which has been chronicled by James in a video. The video also exposes that through investigations conducted by his fans and others online, Digital Homicide had actually stolen a number of copyrighted assets for use in their games. Plus, they have been creating fake accounts on Steam to give themselves positive reviews. Fast forward to March 16, 2016, when Digital Homicide filed a formal lawsuit against Sterling for $10 million dollars for defamation and slander.

Digital Homicide even attempted to use crowdfunding to pay their legal fees. It didn't work out so well, garnering just $450 of the $75,000 goal. Ouch.

Strickland v. Sony
Strickland v. Sony is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The 7 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits in Video Game History
Photo: Rockstar Games

In 2005, 18-year-old Devin Moore was convicted of shooting and killing three police officers at the Fayette, AL police station after the officers brought him in on suspicion of car theft in 2003. He was apprehended hours later in Mississippi, after stealing a police cruiser and escaping the scene. Upon recapture, Devin was quoted stating: "Life is a video game. Everybody's got to die sometime." The combination of murder and car-theft inspired a man named Jack Thompson to file Strickland v. Sony. Sony was the company behind the popular Grand Theft Auto series of video games that, among other things, encourage violence against police and car-theft. Thompson filed the suit as a measure to review whether or not violent video games played a part in Moore’s crimes.

What’s ridiculous about this case isn’t so much that it was filed, but who it was filed by. Jack Thompson wasn't someone who saw this case and was suddenly moved by the possibility that games might lead to murder; Jack Thompson had a lifelong, one-man crusade against violent video games, regardless of the methodology. He had no actual connection to the case. Thompson was able to convince the families of the three murdered officers to file suit against Sony. He compared Sony’s “irresponsible” selling of violent video games to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. It didn’t take long for people to catch on that he was using the tragedies of others for his own personal agendas. Thompson was soon removed from the case for unethical practices, though he insists that he left on his own volition.

Devin Moore was found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection later that year, but the decision appealed by his attorney, Jim Standridge. Alabama would eventually revoke Thompson's law license. A few years later he was disbarred. And, of course, Grand Theft Auto was not held responsible for the tragic death of these police officers.

Universal Studios v. Nintendo
Universal Studios v. Nin... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The 7 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits in Video Game History
Photo: Nintendo

In 1982, Universal Studios attempted to sue Nintendo for trademark infringement of King Kong with their release of the first Donkey Kong game. At the time, Nintendo was a small fry trying to expand its business into the US. It would’ve been understandable if Nintendo had backed down, but fortunately they chose to hold their ground. What preserved confidence was a glaring flaw in Universal’s argument: They actually never owned the rights to King Kong.

The first and original King Kong film was released by RKO General in 1933. Universal’s King Kong film in 1976 was a remake. The whole stunt was Universal’s attempt at gaining a foothold in the growing video game market.

The courts ruled in favor of Nintendo. However, Universal prolonged the battle for another four years by filing two successive appeals before the courts made it abundantly clear that they were not changing their decision.

To express their gratitude, Nintendo awarded their assigned defense attorney, John Kirby, with a  sailboat christened The Donkey Kong. It’s rumored that the character Kirby was named after him in honor of his services.