Head Transplant Doctor Ponders Likeness Lawsuit Over Supposed Appearance In Metal Gear Solid 5

from the losing-your-head dept

Look, I don't even know where to begin with this, so let's just dive right in. A trailer for the upcoming release of the latest game in the Metal Gear Solid series came out a while back and, for reasons I can't even begin to explain, a whole load of folks out there decided that a doctor that appeared in the trailer looked an awful lot like a real-life Italian doctor. But not just any doctor. This doctor is apparently working on achieving the first ever successful human-head transplant with spinal reconnection.

For almost a week now, some parts of the gaming internet have been going nuts over the visual similarities between the doctor that features in the trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and the controversial real-live Dr Sergio Canavero, the neurosurgeon who recently found sudden fame when he claimed that he was ready and able to perform the first human head transplant in medical history. He’s even found a prospective patient, a Russian called Valery Spirodonov, who suffers from a terminal muscle-wasting disease.
The images of the character and Canavero, when placed side-by-side, are certainly striking.


Apparently there have been people calling up Doctor Canavero and questioning him about his relationship to the game, of which he claims to have none. Those callers have been spurred on by all kinds of conspiracy theories being drawn up to explain the similarities. TED Talks by the doctor deal with some of the issues and language supposedly appearing in the MGS game, MGS creator Hideo Kojima has talked about how the new game will deal with controversial issues (head-transplants would probably count), and some have even made claims that the doctor isn't a real doctor and this is all just a media stunt (it isn't, Dr. Canavero is a real, published doctor).

Kotaku's UK site got Canavero on the phone and he claimed to have nothing to do with the game or Kojima. As it turns out, Konami used an actor for the character model in question and it's the actor that happens to resemble Canavero. In other words, it's just a weird coincidence. Except Dr. Canavero doesn't think so.

I pointed out his resemblance to the actor from whom Konami actually did the scanning for the three-dimensional model, but he tells me that his lawyer has suggested something different that involves a conference held in Cyprus:

"One of the sponsors was coincidentally a game developer. Maybe some people there...I don't know...maybe they recorded the thing from certain angles, maybe the cameras were set up in the right spots... I do not know. It's just a hypothesis, but maybe it's not too far-fetched."
Cavanero goes on to point out that this isn't such a bad thing, as he's raising money for his HEAVEN project (you know, the whole taking one person's head and sticking it on another person's body thing) and this has brought some additional notoriety to him. That makes this next bit more perplexing:
“I went to the Polizia Postale [the authority in charge of this kind of thing here in Italy] and filed a complaint towards Mr.Kojima. There is also a Twitter account that is not mine, so I reported this to the Police too, they will now investigate both the matters. In the meantime my lawyer is sending a letter to the Japanese company [Konami] to ask for compensation [for using my image without permission].”
Except that it wasn't his image, it was the image of an actor who resembles him. Some people look alike, for better or worse. In any complaint resulting in a court case, it would seem to me that Konami and Kojima need only trot in the actor around which they built the character model and that should be it. Why it should even have to get that far, considering that Cavanero can't stop talking throughout the interview about how beneficial this whole coincidence has been, is beyond me.


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 1:33am

    As it's not mentioned above, the name of the actor is Ian Moore, and indeed some shots of him do look extremely similar in a GIS. The part of the Kotaku article that interested me the most however was this:

    "At one point, suddenly asked me: “By the way, do you know how much this game is going to cost? And how many copies will it sell?” When I estimated that it’ll sell maybe 4 million units at 60 euros a pop, he started laughing.

    “Wow!!! Sixty Euros? Multiplied by 4 or 5 MILLION? That would cover the whole operation for Valery and then some! We're talking about an insane amount of money!”"

    Erm, yeah... He's apparently not only unaware of how much modern videogames sell, but also things like how much they cost, what the overheads are and how much his cut of that would be worth even if this lawsuit was successful. But, hey, large numbers were mentioned!

    It's sad that entertainment attracts this kind of money while science has to struggle, but the people investing only do so because they want a return - something not guaranteed with primary and experimental research. Like it or not, his operation is not going to receive those figures with or without this lawsuit.

    "but he tells me that his lawyer has suggested something different"

    So, yeah, he's being strung along by a lawyer who doesn't actually know how motion capture works but has managed to make something up that seems plausible enough to the layman for him to pay him. Meanwhile, Konami can produce the actual guy used (presumably along with lots of data related to the original motion capture sessions) to refute his claim. Good luck with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 3:59am

    So I'm guessing Canavero's body is in need of a new brighter, less greedy head, no?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 4:51am

    The accidental scan

    3D scanners are pretty intrusive things to sneak into a conference, even in Cyprus. And you'd have to accidentally sit still in it for the duration of the scan.

    "...maybe it's not too far-fetched..."

    And maybe it is. You be the judge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 6:10am

      Re: The accidental scan

      Dude, the guy says he can transplant entire human heads. He probably is the type that believes a Golden Key for encryption that doesn't defeat its very principle is feasible. I'm sure there are those types out there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rikuo, 8 May 2015 @ 5:32am

    "Cavanero goes on to point out that this isn't such a bad thing, as he's raising money for his HEAVEN project"

    ...Heaven? As in Outer Heaven?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 5:52am

    "That crazy head transplant doc is pissed at me? #$%& this - I'm out"
    - Hideo Kojima

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 7:52am

    OT: Why is it called a head transplant?

    Why is it called a head transplant and not a body transplant?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Devil's Advocate, 8 May 2015 @ 8:05am

    If we were actually shown that...

    "The images of the character and Canavero, when placed side-by-side, are certainly striking."

    The images placed one on top of the other are pretty striking as well! :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 9:26am

    Did the doctor lose his mind?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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