A small indie developer known as Digital Homicide is gearing up for a big fight after suing game critic Jim Sterling. On March 4, Digital Homicide co-founder James Romine filed a $10.76 million lawsuit against Sterling, claiming that Sterling provided “continued coverage and harassment of every single title we have ever posted.” This isn’t the first time Digital Homicide and Sterling have gone at it, with tensions reaching back a couple of years.
In November 2014, Sterling published a video reviewing Digital Homicide’s game
Slaughtering Grounds, calling it “the new ‘worst game of 2014’ contender.” Digital Homicide responded with a few videos shooting back at Sterling, claiming he didn’t know how to play the game correctly. Some back-and-forth ensued, eventually resulting in Digital Homicide filing a DCMA takedown against Sterling’s video. Digital Homicide later clarified this action, stating:
“In the sole instance of Jim Sterling’s ‘Squirty Play’ video, we find the usage of the terms ‘WORST GAME OF 2014 CONTENDER!’ and ‘Absolute Failure’ to describe the entirety of our product while not actually evaluating it in its entirety unfair and unreasonable use of our copyright material. While the reader may disagree with our claim, we believe the unbiased perspective of a court will agree there has been a violation of our copyright and for this reason we will be pursuing an attorney and proceeding with our complaint.”
— Digital Homicide
The drama continued with a 2015 Skype conversation between Romine and Sterling. Though Sterling upheld his views as criticism, Romine saw them as an attack, even going so far as to warn Sterling that he would eventually be sued by someone over his videos. Eight months later, Romine himself filed the suit. The main basis of the suit accuses Sterling of nine counts of libel per se, which is defined as the “broadcast or written publication of a false statement about another which accuses him/her of a crime, immoral acts, inability to perform his/her profession, having a loathsome disease, or dishonesty in business.”
Specifically, the lawsuit discusses a number of incidents, such as Sterling accusing Digital Homicide of lifting art from DeviantArt for use in a game, a number of statements made by Sterling regarding Digital Homicide’s use of another name to publish its games (a name that was already in use by a Polish developer), and numerous references to Digital Homicide and the Wet Bandits from
Home Alone and the Romine brothers to the mafia. Digital Homicide claims that as Sterling publishes his videos, “viewers see it and immediately form a riot/witch hunt where they go and attack the particular products page.” In addition to monetary damages, the lawsuit is asking for apologies to be placed in front of all of Sterling’s articles and videos regarding Digital Homicide for at least five years. Furthermore, Digital Homicide wants Sterling to create an apology video to display on the front of his YouTube account for no less than five years.
Though the suit has been filed, it remains to be seen whether or not it will continue on in the court system. Currently, Digital Homicide is representing itself, though it is in talks with an “excellent lawyer” to help with the case. In order to hire this lawyer, Digital Homicide is currently running a crowdfunding campaign.