Every year professional wrestling fans eagerly anticipate the latest iteration of the WWE video game franchise. The games have even garnered appeal even beyond wrestling fans as the games have become known for their creation suite which allows players to create everything from classic wrestlers to lesser known independent wrestlers and even TV and film characters. It is this freedom for fans to basically have a sandbox to create whatever and whoever they want that gives the game it’s high replay-ability value.
This year marked the debut of the game from the development team at 2K Sports best known for their NBA 2K series, who took over the WWE license last year following THQ’s bankruptcy. This year also marked the games debut on “Current” generation consoles Playstation 4 and X-Box One and as such was more anticipated by the fans than usual due to its major graphic overhaul. The game was pushed majorly on WWE programming and the ad campaign from 2K pushed the inclusion of many new features from gameplay to new creation tools, the most interesting of which was the ability to upload logos to the game via a dedicated website and was promoted as a feature in which you could take a picture of your face or anyone else’s and put it on your created wrestler (CAW).
In past years on “last gen” systems the creation community had access to a feature called the paint tool which was a crude Microsoft paint type application in the game in which talented users would be able to draw customized logos pixel by pixel. Soon after thanks to some ingenuity from community hackers the paint tool became a way to import textures into the game, this would in turn give players access to tons of photo content they could now use from facial skin textures to copyrighted logos. The texture hacks also allowed users to now make created wrestlers that looked just as good as the in game models. And so players now had access to create their dream rosters with wrestlers from past and present that may not ever have been able to be included in the game for various reasons.
One of the most popular of these creations was the former wrestler Chris Benoit. Known in the wrestling community as being one of the most talented technical wrestlers to ever grace the squared circle, Benoit became infamous for the night of June 24, 2007 in which he murdered his wife and son before committing suicide. Though no one really knows why it happened, WWE decided to distance itself as far as they could from Benoit basically disavowing him and pretending he never existed in the company’s history books. However in the last year WWE has had to reluctantly acknowledge him due to the launch of the WWE Network and the fact that Chris was a major on-air character and would have been almost impossible to edit him out of decade’s worth of footage.
Chris Benoit ‘s last appearance in a WWE video game was Smackdown vs. Raw 2006. Since then fans that still hold on to their positive memories of his in-ring work have only been able to create Benoit through the games create-a-wrestler feature and players have been able to share their work with the games community creations network, where players could upload various things they created in game for other to download. Despite WWE’s opinions on Benoit, fans we’re left to do what they wanted when it came to the games and the Chris Benoit CAWs have been plentiful in the community or so it had been.
@corybundick I just checked your account. You were banned because you uploaded a Chris Benoit face to community creations.
— Marcus Stephenson (@stephensonmc) December 4, 2014
As mentioned this year’s new current gen exclusive feature was the ability to upload logos from a website to a dedicated server that connects to community creations for players to download them n their games. One would think this would give players unprecedented freedom to create what they want. Due to this year’s game being built from the ground up on current gen, a lot of gameplay elements were removed and were not readded in time for release. This includes a large majority of the parts available in the CAW mode causing the game to be much more limited than previous years, however most had hope that because of the ability to import logos they would be able to overcome the games limitations.
In order to keep the community PG friendly and keep stuff that obviously shouldn’t be uploaded such as nudity, gore and vulgar language 2K games has both user based moderation and their own internal moderation. User based moderation is limited to the ability to report inappropriate materials, where as 2K’s internal mods scour the servers looking for uploads they also feel violate the community rules. And this brings me back to Chris Benoit, up until this year wrestling fans that wanted to have had no issue with the ability to have him in their games though for some reason this year 2K has begun banning users who upload any content related to him. That’s right not just removing the uploads, 2K is full out banning players who want to create Benoit without any notice or warning. The ban not only keeps users from being able to upload any further, it removes their ability to download others CAWs or participate in ranked and private online matchmaking sessions. Reading through the user agreement there is no text that includes this material as a bannable offense. Either by WWE mandate or as an internal 2K decision there is a hardline being taken and 2K is punishing gamers for doing what they’ve been doing for years, using the games features to create characters who would not be able to be in the game officially.
From talking to a 2K games representative it was made clear to me that anything related to Chris Benoit was being classified as “inappropriate material” to vaguely fit as some justification for the bans. What is most odd about this situation is that the games “Showcase” mode features a story mode based on a wrestling feud (HHH vs. Shawn Michaels) in which Benoit played a significant role in, though the game does its best to omit the matches he was a part of since he could not be included officially. Fans of course wanted to be able to complete the ability to make those matches which is why the ability to create Benoit in their games is important to them. Also this sudden decision to ban all Benoit content comes after the game featured and was heavily promoted around the ability to play as convicted rapist Mike Tyson 2 years ago. Now WWE 2K Community Manager Marcus Stephenson has affirmed that anything uploaded to WWE 2K15’s Community Creations server which relates to the likeness of Chris Benoit will be deleted and result in a two week suspension preventing use of the servers. The word coined to describe the adjournment is a “ban” and should be noted as temporary. There is no information available as of yet whether repeated violations would result in permanent expulsion.
WWE and 2K Games have not responded to a request for comment.