Top 5 Regular Folks Who Were Immortalized as Game Characters

Game designers are like any other artists in that they draw inspiration from the world around them. Plenty of very famous video game characters owe their existence to celebrities. Master Chief is meant to embody the Man With No Name played by Clint Eastwood, Gordon Freeman was inspired by a slightly less badass scientist named Freeman Dyson, and we did a whole article about characters especially named after Guns n' Roses guitarist Slash.

But some of the most iconic characters weren't Xeroxed from Hollywood templates and rock and roll archetypes. No, they were just regular people that the designer or artist happened to know, and somehow or another they ended up linked to characters that have sold millions of titles.

So if you want to live large in the hivemind of gamedom you have six options. One, become a world famous personality that designers will seek to shamelessly copy rather than originate. Or you could be like...

5. The Fanboy that Became a Godlike Supervillain

It's kind of hard to explain to younger gamers what life was like back when arcade cabinets were the "real" game and consoles didn't have so much power that the United States Army bought them to back up their supercomputers. If you wanted to get in on the action surrounding the fighter craze of the '90s, you went to the arcade or to the grocery store to lose hundreds of quarters. Home versions were for peasants.

One of the most enthusiastic fighters was a guy named Seth Killian, who played Street Fighter II obsessively and began organizing tournaments locally. Thinking that this kind of community interaction might interest Capcom, he got in touch with them to see if they might like to endorse the tournaments. They did not, because Capcom was apparently run by people that thought free labor and product loyalty gave you cooties.

Eventually, though, Capcom changed its mind and made Killian part of its marketing department, and an across-the-board consultant on fighting games. Oh, and they named the main boss of Street Fighter IV after him. Seth, the character, is a genetically grown perfect fighter capable of mastering the moves of all the warriors... something you would expect of professional tournament winner like Killian.

4. The Lawyer that Became a Beloved Hero

If you had to pick one person to hold responsible for Nintendo's success, it would be Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Mario, Link, F-Zero, Kid Icarus... basically the best of Nintendo's own games. However, if not for another man all his work would have been for nothing.

See, Miyamoto wanted to make a Popeye game, but was unable to secure the license. Instead he went with Donkey Kong, based obviously on the fictional giant ape King Kong, but Universal Studios sued Nintendo over the game, which was a big deal for the still young and not very powerful company.

In steps lawyer John Kirby, who went on to prove that Universal had already argued against RKO Pictures that King Kong was in the public domain to get out of an earlier lawsuit, making Universal's lawsuit both null and hamfistedly ridiculous. Donkey Kong went on to be one of the most popular games ever, birthed the character of Mario, and Nintendo has been awesome ever since.

In addition to giving Kirby a boat as thanks, along with the exclusive rights to name any boat Donkey Kong, it's long been rumored that the small pink hero Kirby was named in his honor.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner