FIFA 17 is praised for being true-to-life in every regard—so true-to-life that, hell, developer EA even included a real guy’s name and Twitter handle. And, boy, is he pissed off.
Released late September, FIFA 17 offered “The Journey,” its new story mode which followed athlete Alex Hunter’s rise to soccer glory. In-game, one of Hunter’s fans is Calvin Wong, who messages him on a Twitter-like platform with the handle @CalWong.
“Can’t believe @MrAlexHunter was too busy to give me his autograph after I spent 4ever waiting for him!” the fictional @CalWong said. Later, after obtaining the autograph, @CalWong writes, “Will keep it 4ever.”
Cute. There’s just one catch: Calvin Wong is a real person (a Cartoon Network story boarder, in fact) who tweets as @CalWong. On September 20th, a FIFA 17 fan tweeted a screenshot from the game at Wong, tipping him off that the game had used his name and Twitter handle without consulting him. In response, Wong had some choice words for EA:
— Calvin Wong (@calwong) October 1, 2016
Wong’s tweet got some traction. Over the next few days, Wong sent out a few more accusing EA of ignoring his original complaint. Wong called for them to admit that they were wrong for not doing their due-diligence to confirm whether the Twitter handle was real.
“I work at Cartoon Network,” Wong told Kotaku in an e-mail, “and every time we make up a character in a show, we make sure that it’s cleared legally. A cursory search of my ID @CalWong brings me up instantly. The fact that nobody at EA [was] smart enough to do that is ridiculous.”
For days, Wong didn’t hear from EA. But he did hear from FIFA fans who had their own opinions about Wong’s complaints. Wong was called an “irrelevant prick,” among other insults.
“Hope they leave it in and tell everyone to tweet you,” read on tweet.
“The game is bigger than you. Behave,” read another.
A few racist tweets were sent his way as well, riffing on his last name and heritage. “I got harassed pretty harshly about it, with tons of racism,” Wong said. The negative attention was stressful, bolstering his resolve to get his name wiped from FIFA 17.
“It’s as if I had a cute private house in my corner of the net and somebody thousands of miles away gave a bunch of hooligans my address,” Wong said.
After Wong’s lawyer reached out to EA, the behemoth developer apologised to Wong in an e-mail, describing the in-game “tweets” as a fictional social feed wherein Wong’s handle just happened to match up with the one in-game. It was, they said, a coincidence. EA told Wong that they’re patching him out of FIFA 17.
[Update—7:50 PM]: EA sent us an e-mail clarifying that the inclusion of Wong’s name and Twitter handle was coincidental. They apologised for the confusion and are “taking steps to remove this handle from the game and are committed to getting this resolved as soon as possible.”