A child plays the video game Fortnite on Saturday, October 6, 2018 in Chicago. possible” for children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Martha Irvine
From Chuck Chiang in Vancouver
A Vancouver parent has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the creators of Fortnite, saying the popular video game was designed to be “as addictive as possible” for kids.
In the lawsuit filed Friday in the BC Supreme Court, the plaintiff, identified only as AB, said her son downloaded Fortnite in 2018 and “developed an adverse addiction to the game.”
The claim states that the game features a number of intentional design choices such as:
Fortnite creator Epic Games says it will fight the “inflammatory allegations” in a written response released Monday.
Plaintiff’s statement states that Epic Games is enriched by making content and customization options purchasable through an in-game currency purchased with real money.
The class action lawsuit has yet to be approved by a judge, and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
The plaintiff seeks damages, among other things, for violating the BC Business Practices and Consumer Protection Acts through the game, as well as “unjust enrichment” and medical expenses for psychological or physical injuries.
“Video games have been around for decades, but Fortnite is unique in that it places the science and psychology of addiction and cognitive development at the heart of game design,” the court statement said.
It describes the game as “predatory and exploitative” given its popularity with minors.
According to Epic Games, the company has had “cabin accounts” since 2022, allowing parents to track their children’s playtime and limit purchases.
Other measures like a daily spending limit for players under the age of 13 and instant purchase cancellations are also in place, the company says.
“These claims do not reflect how Fortnite works and ignore any ways parents can control their child’s experience through Epic’s parental controls,” the statement said.
In the lawsuit, AB says her son started playing Fortnite: Battle Royale on a Sony PlayStation 4 gaming console when he was nine years old. The boy, she said, soon began buying various Fortnite products while adding the game at home on various platforms, including a mobile phone and a computer.
Since that time, AB says, Epic Games has “received payment for numerous charges” made without her authorization on her credit card. The statement says AB’s son spent “thousands of dollars” on in-game purchases.
“If Epic Games AB had warned that playing Fortnite could result in psychological harm and financial cost, AB would not have allowed (their son) to download Fortnite,” the statement said.
The lawsuit, if approved by the court, would cover three classes of plaintiffs: an “addiction class” of people who have suffered from developing an addiction to Fortnite, a “minor buyer class” that includes gamers who are under the age of majority and a “Random Buyer Class” of users who purchased items in error due to game design.
The lawsuit would cover everyone affected by Fortnite in Canada, with the exception of Quebec, where Epic lost its attempt to appeal a court decision there last month to authorize a similar class action lawsuit.
In the Quebec class action lawsuit, Epic’s attorneys argued that claims that children become addicted to Fortnite are “based purely on speculation” and that there is no scientific consensus on cyber addiction.
Epic Games also said in the Quebec case that it had no chance to argue against claims that minors who bought Fortnite’s in-game currency were being exploited.
Quebec Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Guy Cournoyer said in his ruling that Epic failed to demonstrate a material error in the lower court judge’s decision to allow the class action lawsuit in this case.
Epic said in documents released in a separate lawsuit with Apple in the United States that Fortnite earned more than $9 billion combined in 2018 and 2019.
The Quebec legal claim against the video game maker has yet to be heard in court.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 20, 2023.