Most people would agree that when it comes to video games, being addictive is a good thing. That ‘just one more go’ feeling usually means players are enjoying themselves and want to experience more. But what if a title is too addictive? That’s the accusation being directed at Fortnite and Epic Games, which is facing a lawsuit for “knowingly” making a game that’s allegedly as hard to quit as cocaine.
Calex Légal, a law firm in Montreal, Canada, is preparing a class-action lawsuit against Epic Games. CBC reports that the legal notice was filed on behalf of the parents of two children, aged 10 and 15, and claims that playing Fortnite causes the brain to release dopamine in the same way as taking drugs such as cocaine, resulting in chemical addiction.
It’s also claimed that Epic Games did all it could to make Fortnite as addictive as possible. “Epic Games, when they created Fortnite, for years and years, hired psychologists – they really dug into the human brain and they really made the effort to make it as addictive as possible,” said Alessandra Esposito Chartrand, a Calex Légal attorney. “They knowingly put on the market a very, very addictive game which was also geared toward youth.”
The firm said it was approached by the minors’ parents, who said their children were addicted to the game. Chartrand is asking other parents who believe their children may be addicted to Fortnite to come forward.
Much of the case is based on a 2015 class-action lawsuit against tobacco companies, in which the Quebec Superior Court ruled that the firms didn’t do enough to warn customers about the dangers of smoking. The new suit claims Epic Games knew Fortnite was dangerously addictive but failed to warn players of the risks.
“In our case, the two parents that came forward and told [us], ‘If we knew it was so addictive it would ruin our child’s life, we would never have let them start playing Fortnite or we would have monitored it a lot more closely’,” Chartrand added.
The case also notes the World Health Organization’s recent decision to add ‘Gaming Disorder’ to its International Classification of Diseases.
Fortnite’s Terms of Service state that users must surrender their right to sue the company and instead go through individual arbitration, but Chartrand believes the ToS “don’t stand up in court in Quebec because the province’s Consumer Protection Act requires companies to clearly disclose risks associated with products or services.”
There’s no word yet on how much the law firm is seeking in damages from Epic Games, but expect it to be a large figure.