Epic Games may have a class-action lawsuit on their hands after the parents of teenage sons in Canada claimed the company purposely designed the battle royale game, Fortnite, to be as addictive as cocaine.
The Montreal-based law firm, Calex Légal, filed a motion in Quebec Superior Court Thursday on behalf of two parents who approached the firm separately about their 10- and 15-year-old sons, who they claim developed a severe dependence on the game.
The suit, which hasn’t been approved yet, will hold U.S. video game publisher Epic Games and its Canadian affiliate based in British Columbia accountable for using psychologists and statisticians “to develop the most addictive game possible.”
“The addiction to the game Fortnite has real consequences on the lives of players, many of whom have developed problems such that they do not eat, do not shower and no longer socialize,” the lawsuit states. “Moreover, rehabilitation centers specifically dedicated to addiction to Fortnite have opened all over the world, particularly in Quebec and Canada, to treat people for addiction.”
While the entire lawsuit may sound ridiculous to some, it could gain a significant amount of traction considering the basis for these claims. The lawsuit would be under the same structure as a 2015 Quebec Superior Court ruling that determined tobacco companies were responsible for disclosing the health risks associated with their products. Additionally, last year the World Health Organization acknowledged video game addiction, or “gaming disorder” a real disease.
Fortnite is free-to-play but also has a virtual currency system that lets players buy cosmetic items for their characters.
“The defendants used the same tactics as the creators of slot machines, or variable reward programs, (to ensure) the dependence of its users,” the lawsuit, which was translated from French, alleges. “Children are particularly vulnerable to this manipulation since their self-control system in the brain is not developed enough.”
Whatever happens, Fortnite will still remain immensely popular with adolescents and teenagers alike. All that might change is an extra warning screen upon starting the game and possible compensation for those filing the court case.