The company behind Fortnite is facing a lawsuit that accuses the makers of the online game of intentionally designing it to be addictive.
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of two parents in Quebec and seeks class-action status, also accuses Epic Games of creating a game that is “as addictive as cocaine.”
Last week a legal notice was filed in Quebec’s Superior Court that accused the U.S.-based company of designing a game meant to hook its users, Global News reported. The complaint also said that players of the game have been forced to seek treatment for their addiction.
Alessandra Esposito Chartrand of Calex Legal, the firm representing the parents, said:
“[Their boys] had all the symptoms of severe dependence _ addiction –(and) it caused severe stress in the families as well.
“It’s the same legal basis [past tobacco lawsuits] – the duty to inform about a dangerous product and responsibility of the manufacturer.”
Last year, the World Health Organization classified “gaming disorder,” or video game addiction, as an actual disease—not unlike drug addiction.
Calex’s legal notice said:
“The addiction to the Fortnite game has real consequences for the lives of players: Several don’t eat or shower, and no longer socialize.”
Fortnite belongs to the class of games known as “Free-to-Play,” or F2P, which allow players to acquire the game for free—but they also have the option of speeding up their progress by making in-game purchases.
Many F2P games have daily revenues raised by games can reach from the tens of thousands to over a million dollars. Fortnite, an industry leader, has become a massive cultural phenomenon since it took 2018 by storm, and managed to generate $3 billion in revenue for Epic Games last year.
Lawyer Jean-Philippe Caron, who helped bring the lawsuit, accused the game creators of enlisting the help of “psychologists to help make the game addictive.”
In a 2010 article by industry magazine Gamasutra, Settlers Online game designer Teut Weidemann gave a glimpse into the mindsets of game developers, revealing an openly cynical approach to consumers.
In the interview, the designer touted the seven biblical sins—vanity, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth—as a go-to guide for “monetizing all the weakness of people” while keeping them “addicted and make them keep playing.”
Christopher Schmitz, a colleague of Weidemann, added:
“Game design is not about game design anymore — now it’s about business.
“We do exploit them, but they should not feel like they’re treated in a bad way.”