Mother sues EGM over son’s death 27 years after Sheng Long April Fools joke
In 1992, 13-year old Richard Hunt was awake in his room, well past his bedtime, playing away furiously at Street Fighter II on his Super Nintendo.
Richard’s mother, Debra Hunt, recalls walking into his room at nearly midnight. “I was really angry with him,” she says “It was a school night. I remember I threatened to take the TV out of his room. He yelled back, of course. He wanted to be the first person in his class to find the “secret boss.” Eventually I won, and he rolled into bed. Or at least, I thought I had won.”
Debra awoke the next morning to find her son dead on the floor in his room. His television and his Super Nintendo both running. Richard had apparently risen from bed to keep playing Street Fighter.
Richard had died from a stroke brought on by lack of sleep.
It wasn’t until 2017, 25 years after the incident, that Debra would learn that Richard’s death was the fatal punchline of someone’s thoughtless joke.
“A old friend of Richard’s sent me a story on Facebook. It was the 25th anniversary of a video game magazine’s April Fools Day joke. You can just imagine my shock when I read the story. There it was. The reason Ricky died. It was all for a joke.”
The joke Debra is referring to is the infamous Sheng Long Easter-egg printed in the April 1992 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM). Intended from the very beginning to be an April Fools “prank”, EGM outlined the nearly impossible steps required to unlock a secret boss fight at the end of Street Fighter II.
According to EGM‘s “Tricks of the Trade” section, players could fight against the legendary Sheng Long as the final boss of Street Fighter II if they followed the following steps:
- Defeat every opponent in the game without taking a single hit (perfect rounds) before reaching the final boss, M. Bison.
- Fight M. Bison for ten straight rounds without him hitting you, and without hitting him, either.
According to EGM, if you were successful, Sheng Long would appear, dispatch M. Bison, and you would face off against him instead.
Sound tough? It was meant to be nearly impossible. That was part of the joke.
Fast-forward 27 years, and now Debra Hunt is seeking $13.9 million dollars in damages from EGM‘s founder and current publisher, Steve Harris. Harris was not available for comment.
Frivolous? Not according to civil law expert, Dane Zeller. “The law usually protects businesses in cases like this one, but the operative fact in the Hunt case is that Richard was a minor.” Zeller continues, “If the plaintiffs can establish that the magazine was a product specifically marketed to minors, then there is a very good chance that the court could find it liable in Richard’s death. Think about it this way, if you tell a grown adult to jump off a cliff because Superman will catch them, they know better. Should you be liable if you tell a kid the same thing and he actually does it? It’s a completely different legal standard for minors.”
Even if victorious in court, it would be very little compensation to Debra Hunt. “I’ve been without my son for 27 years now.” Hunt continues, “I would never want to tell anyone that they can’t make a joke, but there has to be limits. It’s always funny until someone dies.”
If I may offer my own opinion, the kid kinda had it coming. After all, that Sheng Long Easter-egg was only supposed to apply to the arcade (coin-op) version of Street Fighter II. How stupid do you have to be? Darwin Award, am I right?
Source: KUNT Des Moines