Shaq Fu

05.03.14

Kevin Spacey and the Most Inexplicable Celebrity Video Game Cameos

There’s an even-scarier-than Frank Underwood character coming to the Call of Duty universe.

We’ve all fantasized about dating our celebrity crushes or confronting our least favorite stars (looking at you, Biebs). But a recent trend is capitalizing on our latent desires to actually become the famous people we love and love to hate.

On Thursday Sledgehammer games released a teaser for the “new era” of Call of Duty, which is set for release this November. The video features an up close shot of Kevin Spacey, introducing a villainous, even-scarier-than Frank Underwood character to the CoD universe.

Surprisingly enough, Spacey isn’t the first real life, actually good actor to make the plunge to the smallest screen. A shockingly long list of celebrities have appeared as themselves in popular games like Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto. These appearances range from voice-overs to cameos to full-fledged characters, and run the gamut from convincing performances to utterly ridiculous publicity ploys.

We surveyed the strange world of celebrity gaming cameos to give you a snapshot of the most successful and the most inexplicable. Feel free to thank us when you’re kicking ass and taking names as Shaquille O’ Neal—or beating President Underwood to a bloody pulp for what he did to poor Zoe Barnes.

Bruce Lee kick-jump started this trend in 1984 with Bruce Lee, an Atari-friendly platform game in which the player controls the famous martial artist, and combats various foes in his quest for infinite wealth and immortality. As befitting a 1984 Bruce Lee videogame, it features a wizard’s tower, a ninja, and a sumo wrestler. All in all, sounds like an action-packed, un-P.C., good time. And since you’ve already wiped the dust off of your old Atari, make sure to check out sequels Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Bruce Lee: Return of the Legend, and 2008’s snazzy Bruce Lee: Iron Fist 3D.

Nobody does martial arts like Bruce Lee, which is a lesson Shaquille O’Neal clearly had to learn the hard way. The basketball legend released his own dojo-inspired fighting game, Shaq Fu, in 1994. The game, which charts Shaq’s progress as he fights through multiple dimensions in order to arrive safely at a charity basketball game in Tokyo, is considered one of the worst video games of all time.

The Sims brought the celebrity cameo game to the next level with a series of high-wattage star appearances. In 2001, Drew Carey appeared in The Sims: House Party (is the most early 2000’s sentence ever written). Two years later, Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera, Cameron Diaz, and Jon Bon Jovi all made their gaming debuts on The Sims: Superstar, which basically sounds like the best virtual house party of all time.

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith: because nothing says “still relevant” like your own edition of Guitar Hero.

If you have a PlayStation 2, Xbox, or GameCube and were alive in 2003, you should have been playing True Crime: Streets of LA. While the “bad things happen in the urban ghetto” trope is admittedly overplayed, this game has a huge one up on its mean street competitors: Snoop Lion himself. In the game, Snoop Dogg appears as a playable character with his own minigame. Apparently, one must collect 30 Dogg Bones in order to access Snoop, or enter a cheat code. If anyone knows what any of that means, or has an access to said cheat code, please hit us up.

Continuing in the vein of so-bad-it’s-good cameos, we can’t overlook 50 Cent: Bulletproof, or it’s even more seriously titled sequel, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (like sex on the beach, but deadlier). The epic two part narrative tells the tale of 50’s quest for vengeance against the hitmen who were hired to assassinate him. The game also features Dre. Dre as an arms dealer and Eminem as a corrupt police officer—really giving the whole crew an opportunity to stretch their thespian muscles.

In 2005, Playboy Enterprises released Playboy: The Mansion, a simulation video game that features Hugh Hefner, Carmen Electra, and Tom Arnold as themselves. In the game, the player controls Hef as he builds his empire from the ground up, throwing parties, winning over celebrity endorsements, and choosing centerfold models. So, that happened.

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith: because nothing says “still relevant” like your own edition of Guitar Hero. In 2006 the classic rock band debuted their own personal edition of the popular music rhythm game, the first iteration of Guitar Hero to focus almost exclusively on the work of one band. Aerosmith re-recorded four songs for the game, and used motion capture technology to recreate their in-game performance appearances and performing styles.

Last year Ellen Page made waves by elevating the celebrity video game cameo to an art form. The Oscar nominated actress played a starring role in Beyond Two Souls, which we described as a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book with a filmic form.” In order to play protagonist Jodie, Page had to work with a 2,000 page long script, accounting for every possible scenario, dialogue, and internal monologue. The game was then “filmed” through the use of motion capture suits. The appearance of high profile actors like Page and Spacey on the virtual screen seems to be ushering in an age of video game respectability, and really branching out from the kitschy celebrity cameo days of yore.