This is one of those gaming news stories that's so weird it's a delight to think about, even if it's technically a boring legal stoush and not anything that actually directly affects games. Activision, publisher of the popular and awful Call of Duty series of video games, has hired former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (yes, that one) as co-counsel against a lawsuit from former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega (yes, that one).
Back in July, convicted murderer and racketeer Noriega claimed "blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation and misappropriation for economic gain" regarding his unauthorised appearance in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Commenting from a parallel universe in which Manuel Noriega is more popular than Call of Duty, he said Activision used his image to "increase the popularity and revenue generated by Black Ops 2"; he also complained of his portrayal "as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state," because while he may technically have been those things, it's completely unfair to say that he was.
Aside from weirdness, this situation raises a couple of intriguing intellectual questions. Where does ownership of public figures' images lie? If Noriega - as he has done - has made himself a public spectacle through being a criminal and dictator, do the rights to his image go public? Does Call of Duty count as satire or social commentary, thus freeing it somewhat in the eyes of the law? Does Manuel Noriega, murderer, have the right to defend himself against negative depictions in the media? I feel the case will slip from Noriega's grasp in the end, but I'll be intrigued to see what the arguments are on each side.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is out November 4. Activision's likely gargantuan sales figures will not be affected by Noriega's suit, Giuliani's defence, or the game's quality.