Few video games have been as culturally divisive as Shaq Fu, the 1994 console game starring the still-in-his-prime NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. Some people hate it — as one online critic declared, “To say that Shaq Fu is bad is like calling genocide ‘a little naughty'” — and some claim to love it, ostensibly for the same reason people claim to love The Room. It’s the only video game in history to have both a website devoted to finding and destroying all existing copies, and a competing website trying to save the game from extinction.
Its reputation for 16-bit awfulness may explain why O’Neal, 20 years later, is determined to make a sequel. Nobody wants a blemish like that on their permanent record, certainly not the Big Aristotle. But unlike George Lucas, who decided to rewrite history on his own dime, Shaq is looking for investors. The now-retired player has launched a campaign with crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, asking for $450,000 from fans to help make Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn a reality.
To their credit, Shaq and his partners seem to be in on the joke. Part of their pitch is admitting that the first Shaq Fu was kinda awful. (They’re even selling T-shirts with the tagline: “Don’t FU It Up!”) And while some of the investment incentives are a little iffy — $500 for Shaq to follow you on Instagram? $15,000 for “Ballin’ at Shaq’s Shack”? — quite a few suggest that Shaq actually welcomes outside creative input. For $500, you can contribute to the score, submitting your “beats, samples, song ideas and vocals to the game.” You can have your head animated into the game for $2,000 (“You can decide to either be a hero or a villain”), and for a whopping $6,500, you can even contribute drawings.
It’s an interesting strategy. Not only is Shaq getting crowdsourced investors (and all the free publicity that comes with it), but if the new Shaq Fu sucks as hard as it did back in 1994, this time it’s at least a little your fault.
Shaq spoke to Rolling Stone about his future as a video game tycoon, Steel 2 and why he may be more invincible than Superman.
Let’s start with the most obvious question. Why?
Why make another Shaq Fu?
Mostly because of the technology. When I first did the game, we were sort of at the end of analog technology. Things have come so far since then. You know how you play video games now and they really consume you? One day, my son was in the room and he was playing one of those war games. I sat next to him and watched, and I was like, “Damn.” The technology and the graphics are so advanced, they actually make it feel like you’re in a war.
Is the Shaq Fu sequel about redemption? Are you righting the wrongs of history?
Well, I wouldn’t call it redemption. It’s about getting it right this time. I’m a guy who even though I’m in the now, I live in the future too.
A future that’s about correcting the past?
I know people make fun of the first Shaq Fu. They’re like, “Ha ha, it’s cute, but it’s not good enough.” I think I know what they mean. It looks dated.
That’s the only problem?
At the time, that technology was cool and advanced. But that was 20 years ago. Now, they’ve got technology that just blows me away. So when