A little over two years into its existence, Fortnite, the battle royale video game, is a runaway hit with more than 250 million registered users. But why? Is it such a well-made game that playing it is a joy? Is it an home to an active community of dedicated players? Perhaps, but two French-Canadians say there’s something more nefarious behind its popularity.
The couple, parents to 10- and 15-year old children, is suing Epic Games, publisher of Fortnite. They claim that it targets kids with a product as addictive and potentially harmful as cocaine.
“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,” Alessandra Esposito Chartrand, an attorney with Calex Légal, the firm representing the parents, said to the CBC.
“They knowingly put on the market a very, very addictive game which was also geared toward youth,” she added.
The legal notice asks the court to authorize a class action against Epic Games. As such, Calex Légal is calling on other parents concerned about their kids’ dependence on the game to come forward to join the case.
The suit shares a legal basis with a 2015 Quebec Superior Court ruling that found tobacco companies were negligent when they did not warn their customers about the dangers of smoking. The argument is that Epic Games had a similar duty to inform its customers about the addictive nature of its product but did not.
Chartrand that the parents came forward and said that they never would have let their kids play Fortnite had they known about the potential for addiction.
Calex Légal also cites the World Health Organization’s recognition of gaming disorder as a disease, something that could help prove that their children were damaged by the negligence of Epic Games.
The official definition of gaming disorder is that it’s “a pattern of persistent and recurrent gaming behavior” manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences including “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
Epic Games has yet to respond publicly to the filing, which is similar to one it received in the Northern District of California in June.