Quebec Parents Seek Class Action Against Fortnite

Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the world. Two Quebec parents are taking issue with the game, not as a form of entertainment but as a highly-addictive game that lures children to play.

Even more than simply taking the game developer to court, the parents want to launch a class action lawsuit against Epic Games.

Addiction Allegations

Two parents, independent of one another and unrelated, approached Calex Legal in Montreal. The Quebec parents alleged that each of their sons – one aged 10 and the other 15 – quickly became addicted to an online video game.

The game is Fortnite, developed by Epic Games and first released in 2017. There are several versions of the game but all are first-person shooter, survival-style games that can be played online or via Nintendo, Xbox One, or PlayStation.

Fortnite Save the World garnered more than one million players within one month of its release. Within one year of the Fortnite Battle Royale release, it accumulated more than 125 million players. The games have also won awards from Teen Choice Awards “choice videogame” to SXSW awards.

The parents of the two boys claimed their gaming addictions are like drug addictions. And the game has effects similar to cocaine, releasing chemical dopamine to the brains of young players who can then become addicted.

If the parents had known about the game’s addictive nature, they claim they would never have let the children start playing Fortnite in the first place. At the very minimum, they would have monitored their play more closely.

Calex Legal Attorney Alessandra Esposito Chartrand told CBC Montreal, “We dug into it, and we realized there was a strong case for it.”

Looking for Class Action Status

The law firm is certain that there are many more parents facing the same addiction issues with their children who play Fortnite. This is why Calex Legal filed an authorization request with the Montreal Court of Justice on October 3 to launch a class-action lawsuit.

The defendants are Epic Games Inc. based in the United States and its Canadian subsidiary based in Montreal.

Chartrand compared this type of lawsuit to those filed against tobacco companies. Specifically, it is based on the precedent set by the 2015 Quebec Superior Court ruling that found for the plaintiffs for $15 billion. The ruling determined that tobacco companies didn’t warn customers about smoking dangers.

The attorney noted, “It’s basically the same legal basis. It’s very centered on the duty to inform.”

As for Epic Games, Chartrand claimed that the company researched the human mind for years when developing the game. Reportedly, they even hired psychologists to figure out how to make the game addictive.

“They knowingly put on the market a very, very addictive game, which was also geared toward youth,” Chartrand said. And that made Epic Games into a company worth $15 billion as of 2018.

Fortnite

2019 WHO Decision Helps

One of the key bases for the case is the classification of video game addiction as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It just happened this year at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. WHO members decided to add “gaming disorder” to the International Classification of Diseases in the category of addictive behaviors.

It was first proposed in December 2017, and the WHO finally decided on a full definition for gaming disorder in June 2018. But the vote didn’t happen until 2019.

According to the entry, a gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurring gaming behavior in digital or video gaming, either online or offline. Some of the signs are:

  • Impaired control over gaming as demonstrated by frequency, intensity, duration, etc.
  • Increasing priority given to gaming over other life interests and daily activities
  • Escalation or continuation of gaming despite negative consequences in personal or work life

According to WHO, a gaming disorder will become evident over a 12-month period of time. However, severe symptoms may require less time to diagnose.

There was a rather large backlash from the gaming community about the classification before this year. A letter signed by gaming companies around the world notified the WHO that the documentation used to define a gaming disorder was “highly contested and inconclusive.”

Even so, the recognition of the term by WHO gives it authority. The lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Fortnite case will likely use it.

Awaiting Word on Class Action Status

The court is likely to decide this month if the attorneys may pursue the case in a class action format.

Calex Legal is collection information from other parents who have reached out to the firm in the hopes of participating in a class action suit. There is likely a large swath of people who will join the case if allowed.

Meanwhile, Epic Games refused to comment on pending litigation. But the company is fighting the class action status decision.

 

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen

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