Activision, Epic, Video Game Developers Face Addiction Suit

Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2023 at 2:31 pm    

Activision Blizzard Inc., Epic Games Inc., Roblox Corp. and around a dozen other video game developers were hit with a wide-ranging lawsuit alleging a 9-year-old became addicted to the companies’ games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto. 

The complaint filed in Chicago federal court on Dec. 6 said video game addiction is an “epidemic harming out nation’s youth” with feedback loops and reward systems that ensure maximal playing time by young users. Much of the addictive and compulsive behavior is driven by “microtransactions,” a scheme used by many games where users can spend real money on in-game perks, the complaint said. 

“The schemes use psychological mechanisms, behavioral psychology, and neuroscience to encourage repeated play and increased spending among users, especially among vulnerable populations like minors,” the complaint alleged. 

The 9-year-old Illinois resident, who goes by D.G. in the complaint, “experienced severe emotional distress, diminishes social interactions, loss of friends, poor hygiene, and withdrawal symptoms such as rage, anger, and physical outbursts,” according to the complaint. 

D.G. spends six to eight hours a day playing video games across multiple platforms including the Xbox, PS4, iPhone, and Android devices. The complaint points to a number of patents owned by the gaming companies that allegedly push users into in-game spending. 

“Because of the introduction of these patents, game developers and publishers can further deceive and harm society’s most vulnerable—minor children—while lining their own pockets,” the complaint said. 

A spokesperson for the Entertainment Software Association, a video game trade group, said the “industry prioritizes creating positive experiences for the entire player community and invests in creating easy-to-use tools for players, parents, and caregivers to manage numerous aspects of gameplay.” 

“Claims that say otherwise are not rooted in fact and ignore the reality that billions of people globally, of all ages and backgrounds, enjoy playing video games and do so in a healthy, balanced way,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

The suit also named Apple Inc., Google LLC, Microsoft Corp., and Nintendo of America Inc. as defendants. Activision, Roblox, Epic Games, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Nintendo didn’t immediately return requests for comment. 

D.G.’s attorneys at the firm Bullock Ward Mason LLC filed two other similar addiction suits in Arkansas federal court against many of the same defendants this fall. 

The case is Angelilli v. Activision Blizzard Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 1:23-cv-16566, 12/6/23.