Using Chris Benoit’s Face Will Get You Banned From WWE 2K15

Hoo boy, this is gonna be one heck of a tightrope to walk.  How about we get the obvious stuff out of the way right now and get to the story?  Chris Benoit was a murderer, and nothing changes that.  He was also one of the toughest and most accomplished technical wrestlers to ever step into a ring – nothing changes that, either.  These two points exist simultaneously and run parallel to each other, because the reality we inhabit is complex, strange and often unfair.  Have we covered the existential bases here?  Good, now try your best not to call anyone Hitler in the comments section and we’ll move on to this weird news story.

So, do you remember the new face-mapping feature implemented in WWE 2K15?  If you’re Photoshop-savvy, you can put just about anyone in the game… anyone, that is, except Chris Benoit.  Via Reddit, we’re just now learning that using Benoit’s face and sharing your new, custom Rabid Wolverine is a ban-worthy offense.  Here’s the tweet exchange between a banned gamer and Marcus Stephenson, 2K Games’ community manager for WWE 2K15.

If you check out the whole conversation, there’s a bit more to learn.  There seem to be quite a lot of Benoit community creations, and they’re all subject to deletion/bans at this point.  “How do you think that’s OK?” asks Stephenson.

Is anyone okay in this situation?  I’ll try and remember everything I can from my semester of Media Law And Ethics, but that was at least a year and a half ago.  So, if you buy a copy of WWE 2K15, it is YOUR property and you can do with it as you like.  But the way I understand it, the moment you decide to play online or upload shareable content, you enter into an agreement with 2K Games.  It’s sort of like the iTunes terms and conditions in the sense that people just click “OK” so they can get to the good stuff, I suppose.  But how specific are the terms in this case?  Is there an explicit “Thou shalt not face-map Chris Benoit” clause, or does this fall under a more general blanket of “offensive content?”  If that’s the case, who gets to decide what’s offensive?  And why is this just now an issue when people have been creating Chris Benoit characters on WWE video games for years?  In the meantime, the Reddit community is pointing out just how disconnected this feels, citing facts such as…

  • You can totally have your custom wrestler introduced as “The Rabid Wolverine”
  • Benoit’s matches are still on the WWE Network, although you can’t search for his name
  • “I’ve seen face uploads of Hitler [in the game].  Chris Benoit is literally worse than Hitler.”

Ugh, what did I just say about calling people Hitler?