I was excited!
I was a couple of years into my testing journey at a small North London based video game publisher. I'd worked on a few obscure titles by this point. But now, at last, I was going to work on a game people might actually have heard of!
But, there was good news and bad news.
The good news.
This could be a fantastic break for us!
There was excitement around the office when we announced that we had secured the Bad Boys 2 license! A massive Hollywood blockbuster starring two of the worlds biggest stars, we had finally arrived as a games publisher!
What could possibly go wrong?
The bad news.
There are licenses, and there are licenses.
Some licenses allow you to do all kinds of things. From the likenesses of the main characters in the main product, merchandising and spin-offs, names and events from the IP, anything. And then some licenses expressly prohibit all of the above, to the point you're wondering why you even acquired the license in the first place.
Guess which one we had? 🤦🏾♂️
Is there a lookalike in the house?
We needed a plan b!
So what do you do when you're a games company that's just acquired the rights to the second movie of a massive global film franchise starring two of Hollywoods most bankable actors, whose likenesses you're expressly forbidden from using in the game, but your QA department is home to two very photogenic, handsome brothers that know more about catching bugs than catching the mood from a film script?
If you're thinking, "No way! They wouldn't!?" you'd be wrong!
From Tester To Actor... Kinda!
I'd always fancied myself as a movie star!*
And now I was going to get my chance - sorta! The Art Director proceeded to take pictures of our faces from all angles so that they could use them for the in-game representations of Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). Once he did that, they got sent off to the dev studio, and our handsome visages were added to the in-game models. My friend Phil would be "Mike", while I would be "Marcus". All sorted!
Or was it?
The film studio was not amused!
You see, Phil actually does look like Will Smith! So when the powers that be saw the in-game characters, they were not impressed! So we did the only thing that we could.
I got an upgrade!**
Enter Vill Schmidt!
And thus, my alter-ego was born!
They had to swap our faces around. So Phil became "Marcus", and I became "Mike"! My friends in the test team and I christened him "Vill Schmidt", the video game incarnation of Will + Me!
And that's how I became Will Smith's virtual stunt double 😁!
Epilogue: ...And the game was released to much fanfare and triumph!
In the above sentence, only one thing is true 😅.
Sadly, the game was terrible. I mean awful. It sucked to the point of being one of THE worst-reviewed PS2 games in history and appeared in multiple "Top Ten Worst Video Games lists". One theme that runs through the reviews is how little I... I mean Vill, looks like Mike.
If you squint, through smudged sunglasses, in the dark, on a screen that's also very smudged, I look just like him. No really. 🤨
*In a bizarre twist, I am actually on imdb.com but not for my Vill Schmidt role!
**Should you read this, Mr Lawrence, forgive me for calling that an "upgrade" sir 🙏🏾 😅