Can Video Games Be Addictive? Fortnite Lawsuit Says Yes — FindLaw

Couple playing a video game.

We’ve all heard the confessionals of video gamers who have sacrificed their jobs, relationships, or training to their obsession with gambling. But can video games be really addicting, like drugs?

People who joined a class action lawsuit against a gaming company in Canada say yes. The defendant Epic Games is the creator of Fortnite, an extremely popular third-person shooter game. A Montreal law firm, Calex Legal, has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two parents who claim the game is as addictive as cocaine and harmed their two children, ages 10 and 15.

Their complaint argues that when Fortnite is played for a long time, it causes players’ brains to release dopamine in the same way as drugs, resulting in chemical addiction. The lawsuit also alleges that the game’s developers hired psychologists to make the game as addictive as possible.

The law firm models its lawsuit after class actions against Big Tobacco in the US and Canada, claiming the defendant knew of the dangers and did not warn the players. In this case, the two parents say if they had known about the risks they would never have allowed their children to play Fortnite.

How similar the effects of video games and drugs are

So what evidence is there to support your claim?

For starters, the World Health Organization recently classified “Gaming Disorder” as an actual disease to be listed in their international classification of diseases. (The American Psychiatric Association’s classification system, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, states that “Internet gaming disorder” needs more research.)

In 2018, researchers at Nottingham Trent University in the UK conducted an extensive review of the studies being done on gambling disorder and found strong consensus that the neurobiological effects of gambling addiction and drug addiction are similar. These included “poor working memory and decision-making skills, decreased visual and auditory functions, and a lack of their neural reward system”.

On October 22nd, the New York Times looked deeply into video game addiction and found that it was “an open secret” in the game industry that games should be addicting. “With the help of dedicated scientists, game developers have used many psychological techniques to make their products as undetectable as possible,” writes Ferris Jabr. According to Jabr, a typical attraction to keep players going is the use of “intermittent reinforcement,” where players receive rewards at random intervals.

Drug analogy also has doubts

However, despite these findings, there are many people who say that nothing makes video game obsessions more intense than other activities. “The same goes for many activities. People overdo it with sex, food, exercise, work, or religion,” Stetson University psychology professor Christopher J. Ferguson writes in the US News and World Report. “(D) The solid, consistent, and well-validated research base required to designate video game addiction as a disease or disorder has not materialized.”

Addiction or not, parents who believe their kids are spending too much time playing video games might consider some measures to reduce this activity:

  • Encourage them to do more physical activity.
  • Talk to children about what they like about playing. This can help determine if they are using games to evade other problems.
  • Limit the hours they can play the games.
  • When you retrieve them from the game, ask how long it will take them to finish the game. Then hold onto this time tightly.

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