Seeking over $10 million in damages
[Disclosure: Jim Sterling is a former reviews editor at Destructoid]
On March 4, 2016, James Romine (one-half of Digital Homicide, along with his brother Robert) filed a civil suit against our old friend Jim Sterling, seeking $10,761,000 in damages; $2,261,000 in "direct product damage," $4,300,000 in "emotional, reputational, and financial distress," and $5,000,000 in "punitive damages." Add up those three numbers and you get $11,561,000 -- I do not know where the missing $800,000 went and I've read every publicly available court document.
According to court documents filed by Romine, the lawsuit centers around ten specific counts of libel. The complaint states that "The Defendant (Jim Sterling) falsely accused The Plaintiff (Romine) and caused damage to reputation, damage to product, loss of product, and causing severe emotional distress to The Plaintiff, The Plaintiff has right to receive restitution for these damages."
The feud between the Romine brothers and Jim Sterling can be traced to a video where Sterling played a game called The Slaughtering Grounds, released under Digital Homicide's previous nom de plume ImminentUprising. If you've seen one video where a snarky gamer plays bad Steam games, you've seen them all -- Sterling's is no different. Since the video's release, Sterling and Digital Homicide have engaged in a near-litigious back-and-forth, culminating in this month's lawsuit.
The alleged damages include a claim from Sterling that Digital Homicide impersonated Polish game company ECC Games, harassment from Sterling's fanbase, and the fact that Sterling compared them to the Wet Bandits from Home Alone. This is not a joke.
More concrete is the claim that Digital Homicide spoke with Valve representatives Connor Malone and Tom Giardino, where they allegedly told Romine they would be disabling the company's developer account. Romine claims that he was able to convince Malone and Giardino to leave the account in exchange for de-listing the rest of Digital Homicide's then-current Steam Greenlight projects. We've reached out to Giardino for comment, since Malone's contact information does not currently appear on Valve's 'People' page.
Sterling is not currently commenting on the lawsuit, but he addressed the matter on his ask.fm page. "I have nothing yet to say about any legal situations. In unrelated news I am in a very confident mood today." In a comment sent to Gameranx and later to Destructoid, Sterling said he was "dealing with the situation" and re-emphasizing his confidence. Sterling has previously criticized Digital Homicide for pushing multiple games of low quality through the Steam storefront, most of which he claims are built exclusively using pre-purchased Unity assets.
In the course of his investigation into Digital Homicide, Sterling claims the company published multiple games under different banners, including "Micro Strategic Game Designs" and "ECC Games." Sterling also claims to have gotten in touch with previously existing company ECC Games Poland, where he quotes producer Dorota Muzynska as saying "We probably fell victim to a people previously known as Digital Homicide. We have already taken legal actions aimed at ceasing infringement of ECC Games rights." We have also reached out to ECC Games for comment regarding this claim.
When asked for comment, Robert Romine instead forwarded Destructoid his entire conversation with another gaming outlet. When pressed for comment on the questions we actually sent, Romine said they were not disclosing the names of the attorneys involved in the case. He also framed the case as a fight against online harassment. "We hope this case and documentation will show others they don't have to take it, what to do when it happens, and that those who do it will be punished."
Romine also told us that "re-printing defamatory materials in your own words would result in liability on your part," which sounds an awful lot like a threat to me.
According to multiple sources close to the story, Destructoid does not kowtow to threats.