Lawsuits and gaming go hand in hand; sometimes, game companies file lawsuits against other gaming companies while sometimes the average citizens file lawsuits against certain games or gaming elements for being too violent or sexually suggestive. Games like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto have been at the center of legal arguments. Mortal Kombat got into legal trouble back when it came out as the gory gameplay didn’t sit well with parents, and this game is the reason why ESRB ratings were invented and implemented.
This week, the makers of the popular battle royale game Fortnite were accused of creating a game that’s too addictive and has the same effects as "taking cocaine," in a Canadian class-action lawsuit. Fortnite is a battle royale game where up to 100-players can fight in a deathmatch as a team or solo, and the goal is to be the last team/individual surviving to win the game. The game is developed by Epic Games and was released in 2017, and it quickly became one of the top battle royale games out there with nearly 250 million players; however, the viewership is declining as of recent.
However, the growing popularity of Fortnite is being attributed to the addictive elements present in the game. A legal notice has been filed in Quebec on behalf of two kids who’ve been addicted to the game since it came out. The legal notice states that the game triggers the release of dopamine, which is a reward neurotransmitter in the brain. It’s also stated that the game is designed to be addictive, and game mechanics are designed in such a way that makes people dependent on playing. These are similar to the mechanics used by Casinos to get gamblers hooked on slot machines, says the lawsuit.
This is not the first time a battle royale game has gotten into legal trouble. PUBG, another popular battle royale game, got into hot waters with Indian lawmakers when a nationwide ban on the game was proposed. Following the legislation, PUBG Mobile was banned in the country, and players were being arrested for even playing the game. Fortnite lawsuit, however, is aimed at the creators of the game rather than the players. Jean-Philippe Caron, the lawyer, leading the lawsuit against Epic Games, said that the company enlisted "psychologists to help make the game addictive." "The company failed to warn about the risks and dangers inherent in their product," he added.
However, it’s not up to the lawyer to get the lawsuit going. The Quebec Superior Court will decide if the class-action lawsuit can even proceed, and it could take up to a year to make the decision. In the case of a successful action, Epic Games could be forced to pay out "tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars" in damages, according to the lawyer.
Fortnite is available for free on Mobile, PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.