GTA: San Andreas targeted with new lawsuit

Michael S. Washington files civil claim against Rockstar and Take-Two, saying the publishers used his past, likeness as basis for main character's story.

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It has been a while since anyone has sued Rockstar Games over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004 and on the Xbox and PC in 2005, the game became the whipping child of game-regulation activists, after the so-called "Hot Coffee" scandal in which a sex minigame was uncovered within the game's code by way of a hack. Rockstar and parent company Take-Two Interactive went on to settle a number of class-action lawsuits that arose from the situation.

Washington claims the bikes in GTA: San Andreas were his doing.
Washington claims the bikes in GTA: San Andreas were his doing.

Rockstar and Take-Two are now headed back to the legal arena on account of San Andreas, but the issues before the court this time aren't likely to trigger the same kind of class-action response. Far from it, as this week saw Michael S. Washington file suit against the New York-based publishers, claiming that Rockstar North based GTA: San Andreas on his life, going so far as to use his likeness for the primary character, Carl "CJ" Johnson.

According to Washington's complaint (obtained by enthusiast Web site Game Pron), Rockstar contacted him in January 2003, seeking information on "street life." Washington, who was then employed as a male model and backup singer for rap group Cypress Hill, noted in his complaint that he discussed his "troubled" youth with a group of developers for approximately two hours, offering such details as how "teenagers in his gang rode around on bicycles."

After the interview, Washington claims Rockstar said that he would be contacted should they decide to make use of the information he provided. He then states that he subsequently received no further contact from the studio and had forgotten the experience until July 2010, when his nephew brought the game to his attention.

Washington claims that he contacted Rockstar in July through his attorney and was allegedly told by the company's representation that his image and story were not used in the game. Rather, the main character's image was based off that of Christopher Bellard, known under his stage name as Young Maylay, who also voiced the character. Of note, Washington's name does appear in GTA: San Andreas' credits under the "Talent" section (timestamp 05:01 of the linked video).

Washington is seeking damages in excess of $250 million, claiming that he is entitled to 25 percent of the game's profits, a figure he pegged at more than $1 billion.

Take-Two had not responded to a request for comment on the suit as of press time.

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