The always-entertaining Snoop Dogg has formally announced the “Hip-Hop Gaming League” (HHGL), an invitation-only organization comprised of “A-list” musicians, athletes, producers, etc. These individuals, characterized primarily by their level of fame, will follow rules set and enforced entirely by Snoop, at least for now.
Celebrity interest in video games is nothing new. Many famous actors and sports figures now treat video games as an important legitimizing force, and some even choose to exert creative influence over the game design process. This despite the fact that games (via mods and hacks) could be used to play with a celebrity’s image in ways that they (and their handlers) would normally be horrified by. Since celebrities are surely aware of this risk, their estimation of the rewards must indeed be significant.
The game industry has long debated whether celebrity inclusion in games is actually a good thing. I don’t see it as an either/or issue. The industry should definitely continue to create it’s own personalities… the Marios and Lara Crofts of the future. That’s the best way to generate lasting profit (and experiment with the medium, IMO). However, it is also true that certain games would definitely be less interesting without celebrity inclusion. Not all sports titles need to include professional stars, but some obviously should. P2P fighting games have clearly done well with (mostly) original characters, but that doesn’t mean a Bruce Lee-centric game wouldn’t uniquely scratch a certain itch. We form an emotional connection with celebrities that can and probably should be harnessed by game developers. Sometimes. Occassionally.