Former pitcher Curt Schilling wasn’t the first celebrity from another profession to try his hand in the world of pixels and polygons. The World Series-winning athlete is still dealing with the collapse of his 38 Studios in Rhode Island (catch up with that story here), but he should take heart in the company he shares this list with. Some of Earth’s most talented people (and Vin Diesel) have tried applying their world-class skills toward producing a video game, and it rarely goes well. Some never release a thing, and others just release crap.
Basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal is a real renaissance man. That is if we define “renaissance man” as a person who others won’t say “no” to. Just because he can dominate the paint doesn’t mean that he should be our go-to guy for everything else. For the love of Kazaam, please don’t ever let O’Neal rap, act, or Shaq Fu again.
Shaq Fu is a 16-bit era fighting game that stars the NBA center. It is terrible. Imagine a Buick dancing in The Nutcracker, and you’ll have an idea of what it was like to get a seven-foot, 325-pound man to make with the karate in this Street Fighter II ripoff.
The premise is that Shaq is in Tokyo when he stumbles Mr. Magoo-like into a dimensional rift in the back of a dojo. Now, he needs to fight a bunch of dudes to save some kid from an evil mummy. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and round-house kicks.
O’Neal’s actual involvement in the creation of Shaq Fu was likely very limited. Paris-based studio Delphine Software developed it, and the company has since gone belly up. It’s hard to imagine Shaq spending any time in Paris coding a fireball for his Genesis game. Although, he’d probably be better at that than shooting free-throws.
In 2005, EA announced a deal with film director Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones, E.T.) to produce three original titles with his help. That deal resulted in Boom Blox for the Wii and two cancellations. To be fair, Boom Blox is a very fun game, but it also didn’t live up to the promise of the Spielberg deal that video games can make people cry. In an interview with Gamespot, Neil Young, the EA executive who was in charge of this collaboration, said, “We want to be able to — together with [Spielberg] — start delivering some experiences that begin to get [players crying].” Now, Boom Blox did make me cry, but that’s only because I accidentally hit myself in the nuts with the Wii remote while playing.
LMNO was the title that was supposed to make us all weepy. Spielberg and company intended it to be a first-person, parkour, action, role-playing game based around a secret agent’s relationship with an extraterrestrial. You know, the same plot as American Dad. EA canceled it in 2010.
Spielberg’s job on the project was to offer guidance. He set up the world and the characters and then would return occasionally to comment on the progress. According to a 1UP.com report, he was actually quite good at it: “If [a character] looked a little weird or uncanny or something like that, he’d be like, ‘No, you’ve just got to move her smile in like two teeth and make her eyeballs do this.’ And it was like, ‘Wow, he’s right,’” said an anonymous member of the LMNO dev team.
Gamers will never get to play LMNO, and Spielberg will likely not be responsible for making people cry with a video game.
How about this idea: An interactive, episodic story set in the Halo universe from the man who successfully turned The Lord of the Rings into a cinematic masterpiece? That was director Peter Jackson’s intention when he formed Wingnut Interactive, a video-game-focused spinoff of his special-effects studio that going to make Halo: Chronicles. The director described the title as the “filmiest game,” which makes it sound like it’s covered in a thick layer of mucus.
In order to get excited about Jackson’s Halo game, you had to ignore two things. First, no one does episodic gaming right. And secondly, Jackson made a really terrible King Kong movie. Half of that movie was about Jimmy who I’m pretty sure is neither a king nor a kong.
In 2009, Jackson announced that the plans for Halo: Chronicles fell through when Microsoft pulled the plug on the film adaptation of Halo that the New Zealand native was set to direct. The critically approved sci-fi flick District 9 was a result of that deal breaking down, but Wingnut Interactive has yet to produce a game.
As an actor, Vin Diesel has wowed audiences in The Fast and the Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious, and Fast Five. With an acting range like that, it may surprise people to learn that Diesel is actually a secret nerd with interests that extend beyond spoilers on the back of Toyota Camrys. He enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons and started developer Tigon Studios so that he could star in his own original games.
In 2004, Tigon released The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, which is a first-person shooter based on Diesel’s character from the sci-fi film Pitch Black. Critics and gamers warmly received Butcher Bay. The developer has since had difficulty reproducing that success.
In an obvious attempt to try something new, Diesel played a driver in the 2009 racing/action game Wheelman. Tigon scanned in Vin Diesel for the character Milo Burik, an undercover agent trying to take down a gang in Barcelona. Burik acts as the group’s getaway driver in heists that have players screeching through the streets and alleyways of the Spanish city. It wasn’t very realistic because those alleyways weren’t filled with drug dealers as anyone who’s been to Barca can tell you that they always are.
Wheelman turned out pretty poorly. Oddly, the driving game suffered from terrible on-foot levels that destroyed the pacing.
Diesel isn’t done, though. His Tigon Studios is reportedly working on three new games, including one titled Melkor, which appears to be based on one of Vin Diesel’s own D&D characters.