Sci-fi author John Beiswenger recently filed a lawsuit against video-game publisher Ubisoft. He alleged that the French company stole the story for its blockbuster Assassin’s Creed video game series from his novel, Link. The 2002 book features a device that allows characters to relive their ancestors’ memories, which is similar to the function of the “animus” used by the main characters in the Assassin’s Creed universe.
Justice has yet to be served in this case, but a group of vigilante gamers have taken to their digital steeds to rustle up some ol’ fashioned internet justice. The punishment took the form of over 100 one-star reviews on Link’s Amazon product page from a group of what are apparently very devoted Assassin’s Creed fans.
“This is the worst book I have ever read in my life! Do not buy this book! Never ever buy this product,” reads a review from Amazon user Katniss_Everdeen_65.
While others seem to have taken it a bit more personally:
“You sue one of my favorite game series[sic], you’re going to get payback. I hope that all of the fans do the same,” reads FatleBoo8’s thoughtful critique.
Angry fans continue in that vein in dozens of single-star reviews. Although, as Amazon user Robert Weinhold points out: “Ugh,unfortunately zero stars was not an option….”
This isn’t an isolated incident. Mobs of fans have rushed to the defense of other games that they perceived to be under attack from outside aggressors before. In 2008, self-help-book author Cooper Lawrence suffered a similar series of attacks for her remarks about the original Mass Effect. On Fox News, she inaccurately described that role-playing game’s sex scene as pornographic. Within a week, her book The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace with Your Inner Overachiever was slammed with over 400 negative reviews. Amazon tried to remove all of the customer comments that talked about Mass Effect, but that left 166 single-star reviews that live on today, compared to only six positive reviews.
It’s hard to blame people for defending something they love. Especially if they believe they’re protecting it from someone who is attempting to make a quick cash grab. This isn’t based on any deep understanding of copyright law, but it doesn’t seem like Beiswenger has much of a case against Ubisoft. In 1965, Dune featured Bene Gesserit characters who could access the memories of their predecessors. Quantum Leap is similar enough in structure that if Beiswenger wins, Ubi and the author will both owe Scott Bakula some cheddar.
Whether Beiswenger will prevail in court (or whether Ubi will settle just to put this behind them before Assassin’s Creed III comes out) is up to the lawyers. However, the mob will see to it that this author suffers financially for daring to exploit something that they love. Which is kind of scary.
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