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Eight Strange Celebrity Cameos in Video Games
From licensed games to commercials, there’s a long and storied history of cross promotion between video games and celebrities reaching back to the early days of gaming’s infancy. Some of them have worked, while others have gone down as laughably terrible products that stand as nothing more than punch lines today.
The most awkward part of celebrity integration, however, has long been the odd cameo that sees a celebrity appearing as themselves within a video game. Often hilarious and sometimes used to great effect, these cameos have the opportunity to be some of the most memorable moments within a game. Here are eight that, for various reasons, are particularly strange.
Avenged Sevenfold (Call of Duty: Black Ops II)
The Call of Duty franchise has been known to cross-promote with musicians in the past, but it was the way Avenged Sevenfold showed up in Black Ops II that made this cameo particularly awkward. After the end of the game, both of the main characters Raul Menendez and Frank Wood are found talking together, both sporting band t-shirts and presumably preparing to play onstage.
During their exchange, Menendez mumbles nervously about how hard he’s practiced, Woods admits that he never really needed a wheelchair, and members of Avenged Sevenfold slap Menendez around while heckling him to pull himself together and deliver a good show for the fans. Considering the fact that the two were both enemies and hardened war veterans, the entire exchange is a little…jarring. Once they get on stage, however, it quickly turns into a rendered music video that isn’t all that abusive on the senses, particularly if you’re a fan of the band.
Phil Collins (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories)
Considering that Vice City is heavily influenced by Miami Vice, it’s really not that far of a stretch to see Phil Collins make an appearance in the game performing the notable “In the Air Tonight”. Still, of all the musicians one could guess would have a cameo in a video game game, Collins is down there with Enya and Elton John.
The actual mission in Vice City Stories involves the player keeping Collins safe from would-be saboteurs attempting to saw through cables and bring the light setup crashing down on Phil as he performs onstage, with nice cutaways to the music that allow one to take a break from hooligan-smashing in order to enjoy a taste of 80s goodness. As a bonus, this moment probably goes down as one of the best uses of a drum solo in a non-music game.
Gary Coleman (Postal 2)
Postal 2’s love of embracing craziness is emphasized by the cameo of the late, great Gary Coleman. He appears in the game when Postal Dude is given the task of approaching Coleman and getting his autograph while the Different Strokes star is on a book tour. In true Postal style, this can be done either peacefully or violently, although the mission will ultimately result in Gary being gunned down after the cops show up to arrest him.
During the mission, you’ll have the chance to wait in line, listen to Gary speak rudely to his book fans, and even insult the man himself by telling him you loved him in The Facts of Life. Postal 2 is wild fun on its own, but being able to engage with an 80s TV icon gone bad is the kind of crazy anyone can appreciate.
Danica Patrick (Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed)
She’s not new to video game cameos, but Danica’s appearance in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a total and complete enigma that reeks of shameless cross-promotion and an attempt to cash in on her limited popularity. Why else would a real life NASCAR driver show up in a roster alongside video game characters?
It’s nice to see a lady driver get some respect in the media, but placing her in a game alongside the likes of blue hedgehogs and other SEGA standouts is a decision that doesn’t make all that much sense. There’s nothing special about her character in the game, and it’s hard to imagine that the crossover fanbase of Danica Patrick and SEGA fans was big enough to justify this from a financial standpoint. No matter how ancillary she might be, however, Danica is still there in all her flame-spewing glory.
Fred Durst (Fight Club)
He wasn’t available on the roster from the get go, but Fred Durst made an appearance in the awful Fight Club as an unlockable character used to fight the game’s other bland fighters.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Fred Durst? Fighting? Bare knuckle brawls? Punching dudes in the street? His music might feel like something keen to drive such behavior, but being that the leading man from Limp Bizkit is not really the first person you’d guess to be in a fighting game, this has to be one of the stranger appearances he’s had.
Justin Bieber (NBA 2K13)
The NBA 2K series has long had a playable celebrity team made up of actors and musicians as a fun little aside to normal gameplay. It should be noted, however, that these musicians are typically edgier pop stars or rappers; Bow Wow, Chamillionaire, Mac Miller, and Sean Kingston have all donned the jersey at one point and jumped into the fray alongside the likes of LeBron.
That’s kind of what makes this cameo even stranger. Justin Bieber is a teen idol and pop star, and I’m about 99% sure that the crossover between Justin Bieber fans and NBA 2K players is limited enough to not call this a fan demand. Rather, I’m assuming this was supposed to be nothing more than a goofy joke on the part of the creators. That would make sense, right?
Ricky Gervais (Grand Theft Auto IV)
Ricky Gervais is a great comic, but his appearance at the Split Sides comedy club in Grand Theft Auto IV was kind of a random one. He’s a droll British comic, and one can attend his set in the game to listen to a segment from one of his actual stand-up performances while a rendered Ricky delivers it on stage.
He can often be crass, but in a game that makes a joke out of some of the seediest profanity and uses a great deal of blatant satire, I’m not sure that his comedy stylings quite meshed with what the game was going for. Still, as a massive BBC Office fan, it was nice to take a break and listen to the funnyman deliver some of his best material.
Burt Reynolds (Saints Row: The Third)
Like Postal, Saints Row: The Third is a great example of how one can embrace the craziness and make things obscenely fun by being random.
The appearance of Burt Reynolds illustrates this nicely. During the Zombie Attack mission, your player discovers that Burt is the esteemed Mayor of Steelport, fully decked out in some great cowboy getup and his impressive mustache. He asks you to help him deal with a zombie problem on Arapiece Island, to which you happily accept. And why wouldn’t you? After all, this is “Burt ****ing Reynolds.”