‘Fortnite’ Is Like Cocaine? This Canadian Law Firm Thinks So
- Canadian firm in the process of opening the suit against Epic Games.
- Calex Legal representing families of two minors who have spent hundreds on Fortnite.
- Lawfirm compares their addiction levels to heroin and cocaine.
With great success comes great controversy. It’s a lesson all of us know well, but the bigger you are, the more eyes are on you. Epic Games is no stranger to such controversy, having exploded over time to be a big name in the gaming industry. Whether it’s the percentage of the company that Tencent owns, their tactics of throwing money at developers for timed exclusives, or the fact that the Epic Games Store itself feels incredibly bare-bones in features, Tim Sweeney and the rest of Epic are used to being in the limelight for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Calex Legal, a Canadian law firm based out of Montreal, has put Epic on notice that they have initiated proceedings to open a class action lawsuit against them concerning the game Fortnite. Fortnite is one of those games where even if you live under a rock, you can’t escape it. The game exploded in popularity when it shifted away from a PvE experience to focus more heavily on the PvP battle royale side of things. PC, console, mobile, it’s a craze it seems everyone has at least dabbled in. In no small part, that’s due to its fairly generous free-to-play model.
But with nearly any game with a free-to-play business model, there are some costly additions hiding just a few clicks away. Calex has taken on the role of representing two families of minors, 10 and 15, who have spent several hundreds of dollars on the game in the past year. They intend to make their case by using the World Health Organization’s efforts to add gaming disorder to an ever-growing list of disorders, illnesses, and diseases recognized by the organization.
Though the classification doesn’t formally take effect until 2022, it’s already faced pushback from both the industry and audiences at large. The definition of gaming disorder is as follows according to WHO:
Gaming disorder is defined in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.
You’ll note that even by the World Health Organization’s definition, they do not use the word “addiction.” Despite that, Calex is using that as their main argument, as well as likening the levels of addiction to those hooked on cocaine, or heroin.
It’s quite possible that nothing will come of this, due to the terms of service listed in Fortnite’s EULA itself, although Calex attorney Alessandra Chartrand thinks that the EULA won’t stand up to consumer protection laws when brought to court. The Fornite EULA states as follows in regards to legal disputes:
You and Epic agree to resolve disputes between us in individual arbitration (not in court). We believe the alternative dispute-resolution process of arbitration will resolve any dispute fairly and more quickly and efficiently than formal court litigation. Section 12 explains the process in detail. We’ve put this up front (and in caps) because it’s important:
THIS AGREEMENT CONTAINS A BINDING, INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION AND CLASS-ACTION WAIVER PROVISION. IF YOU ACCEPT THIS AGREEMENT, YOU AND EPIC AGREE TO RESOLVE DISPUTES IN BINDING, INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION AND GIVE UP THE RIGHT TO GO TO COURT INDIVIDUALLY OR AS PART OF A CLASS ACTION, AND EPIC AGREES TO PAY YOUR ARBITRATION COSTS FOR ALL DISPUTES OF UP TO $10,000 THAT ARE MADE IN GOOD FAITH (SEE SECTION 12). YOU HAVE A TIME-LIMITED RIGHT TO OPT OUT OF THIS WAIVER.
If the class action lawsuit doesn’t fall flat on its face, it’ll be something interesting to watch. Will the WHO’s designation of gaming disorder lead to a bloom of cases like this? What precedent does it set to try to pin blame on Epic and not the parents? After all, a 10-year-old and 15-year-old wouldn’t have access to that kind of money under normal means. Some level of parental involvement must’ve been there, whether it be gifted money or access to a credit card.
There’s a lot to be said about different types of free-to-play models, almost all of which try to entice a player to spend more. But even in the harshest instances, is it not voluntary for the player to spend money on them? It’s a curious situation, and while Fortnite may be a divisive game from a controversial company so many questions remain. Let us know what you think about all this down below. If we have any gamers out there who happen to be in fields of law or psychology, be sure to weigh in and give us your opinion on the situation.
If you enjoyed this coverage be sure to check out Exclusively Games’ Brian Schuchert’s ongoing series Your Brain on Gaming which so far has two entries, Why Videogames Aren’t a Waste of Time and Addiction and the Role of Dopamine.