Video Games

New Class-Action Lawsuit Contends Video Game Fortnite Is as Addictive as Cocaine

Parents in Canada seek damages and refunds for their children's in-game purchases.

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Two Quebec parents are suing Epic Games, a video game developer known primarily for their game Fortnite, over allegations that Fortnite is "as addictive as cocaine" and that Epic Games is targeting children with its marketing.

Montreal law firm Calex Légal brought the class-action suit against Epic Games to the Montreal Court of Justice on October 3 after being hired by two parents with children aged 10 and 15, respectively, that they claim are addicted to Fortnite. (Calex Légal provided a copy of the lawsuit to Reason.)

Alessandra Esposito Chartrand, the attorney representing the parents, alleges that Epic employed psychologists when developing Fortnite, "[digging] into the brain and…really [making] the effort to make it as addictive as possible." Chartrand, citing psychotherapist Dr. Anita Gadhia-Smith's work that equates dopamine release from electronic usage with cocaine addiction, argues that Epic "knowingly put on the market a very, very addictive game which was also geared toward youth."

The plaintiffs seek restitution for damages to be determined by the tribunal, a fine to be imposed on Epic Games, and the refund of their children's in-game purchases, plus interest, which is around $1000 Canadian (US$750). A spokesperson for Epic Games stated that the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royal game in which an individual player, or teams of players, compete in a shrinking battle zone until one player, or team, is left standing. In the game, players loot weapons and shield potions from treasure chests, build forts to protect themselves from other players, and engage in battles as they attempt to be the last one standing. A game of Fortnite typically lasts around 20 minutes for the eventual winner but can be as short as a minute for the player who is the first to be defeated.

While Fortnite is free, players can purchase the game's virtual currency, "V-Bucks," with real money to unlock cosmetic items and a "battle pass" that provides players with the opportunity to complete timed challenges that offer in-game rewards.

According to the lawsuit, the 10-year-old (referred to as LN) played approximately 1,800 matches of Fortnite in seven months and spent CA$600 on "V-Bucks," and the 15-year-old (referred to as JZ) played more than 7,000 matches of Fortnite over the course of a year (that's nearly 20 matches per day), and stays up until 3 a.m. on the weekends and 1 a.m. during the week in order to play the game. The suit claims JZ spent between CA$300 and CA$400 on in-game purchases.

The plaintiffs allege that these aspects of the game (the opportunity to spend real-world money and the timed challenges that encourage frequent play) coupled with the game's cartoonish graphics indicate both Epic Games' awareness of Fortnite's addictiveness and the company's targeting of children.

Attempts to regulate micro-transactions have been successful in other countries and are currently being tried in the United States. In May, Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) introduced "The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act," that would prevent game developers from "monetizing addiction" by making sure kids are "walled off from compulsive micro-transactions."

The plaintiffs also turned to the World Health Organization (WHO) to bolster their addiction case. WHO added "Gaming Disorder" to its International Classification of Diseases in September 2018. WHO states that "For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior 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."

The parents of LN and JZ claim that playing Fortnite causes the brain to release dopamine in a similar fashion as it does when under the influence of cocaine and, as a result, has effectively "[ruined] their [children's] lives."

While it's true that some people use video games as an escape from reality, the notion that gaming is comparable to hard drug use is asinine. The American Psychiatric Association doesn't even recognize gaming disorder as a legitimate disorder.

In fact, video games have been erroneously blamed for everything from school shootings to divorce over the past 20 years, exemplifying how parents and politicians ritualistically pin cultural problems on video games. Claims of gaming addiction have existed for as long as video games have existed, all the way back to the days of kids spending hours hanging out in arcades in the 1980s. Whatever game is the most popular at any given time is accused of getting youngsters hooked.

Unfortunately, game companies are increasingly being blamed—and in this case, sued—for issues that better parenting could probably solve.

As of publication, Epic Games has 30 days from October 3 to respond to the lawsuit.

NEXT: Of loose cannons and loose canons in Title VII

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  1. has effectively “[ruined] their [children’s] lives.”

    What really ruined their children’s lives is having them for parents.

    1. Are you sure it wasn’t global warming?

      1. How dare you!

  2. I lost interest in Fortnite relatively quickly. Apex Legends is more my thing.

    1. I like Apex because I don’t buy anything and I feel I am getting my money back for ME Andromeda. Overall not a fan of the battle royal games but they are fun for a quick jump in with friends.

      1. Ugh, don’t speak of ME Andromeda. Still annoyed about how badly they destroyed a legacy.

  3. Out of curiosity, does Canada have laws making it illegal for parents to say “no” and/or not buy everything their children demand?

    1. It’s considered child abuse to withhold cocaine from jonesing kids.

    2. No shit. I’m guessing the kids run the household and get what they want.

      A flip side might be parents using video games as a baby sitter. So perhaps they should sue themselves.

      1. Or perhaps the parents are not really aware because they are too busy playing candy crush.

  4. “as addictive as cocaine”

    I recently tried to pay a hooker with Fortnite and she pulled out a knife. I’m going to have to disagree.

  5. According to the lawsuit, the 10-year-old (referred to as LN) played approximately 1,800 matches of Fortnite in seven months and spent CA$600 on “V-Bucks,” and the 15-year-old (referred to as JZ) played more than 7,000 matches of Fortnite over the course of a year (that’s nearly 20 matches per day), and stays up until 3 a.m. on the weekends and 1 a.m. during the week in order to play the game. The suit claims JZ spent between CA$300 and CA$400 on in-game purchases.

    I don’t spend money on these types of free-to-play games, but 1800 matches in 7 months isn’t that much for a hard core gamer- and $600 is a lot for a 10-yr-old (or at least it should be), it’s not a huge amount of money overall. I mean, I wouldn’t be happy to find that on my credit card if it were my kid.

    I’d estimate the average Fortnite match to last ~10 minutes. Average. Some last longer, some can last a minute or less. Depends on the skill of the player. Presuming my estimation is correct, little Timmy spend ~300 hours playing fortnite over 7 months– which again, for a hardcore 10 yr old player probably isn’t unusual.

    1. If I found out my kid spent $600 of my money on a lootboxes, they wouldn’t find the body. Of course, I wouldn’t be silly enough to let them have access to my cards in the first place.

      This really sounds more like a bunch of bad parents are trying to get themselves out of a hole by digging deeper.

      1. My conspiratorial guess is the parents thought that little Timmy was going to be really good so they spent a lot on Fortnite hoping he’d win a big tournament and get a Twitch following to rake in the big bucks only to find out little Timmy just sucks at the game.

      2. I’m not trying to downplay $600 spent over 7 months by your kid… but uhh, it’s $600. I really expected this figure to be in the thousands to warrant a class action suit here. And it was over 7 months. If they didn’t catch that after month 1, the parents are retards or criminally incompetent.

        1. shorter: Hey Timmy, what’s this $59 charge to EpicGameStore?

        2. precisely. Given that we used to spend $50-$60 on a new single-player game that only gave you about 8-10 hours of gameplay…that actually isn’t that bad of a deal. Its roughly only about $20 a week (in Canadian dollars).

    2. I’d asked these parents why they thought giving their child their credit card, not using the parental controls on the devices, not looking at their monthly billing statement, and not setting a bedtime is the fault of Epic.

  6. My router lets you ban MAC addresses from being connected during certain times of day. And if that doesn’t work, you can always just unplug it.

    1. That starts with the parents saying no first, or at least raising an objection. But since the kids are spending the parent’s money on the micro-transactions, the parents are ok with it.

  7. I mean, assuming cocaine isn’t as bad as the govt tells us… maybe? Still your decision to get addicted though, ya fucking hippy.

  8. Fortnite should respond by filing charges of child neglect against the “parents”.

  9. Montreal law firm Calex Légal brought the class-action suit against Epic Games to the Montreal Court of Justice on October 3 after being hired by two parents fully-grown children with children aged 10 and 15, respectively, that they claim are addicted to Fortnite. (Calex Légal provided a copy of the lawsuit to Reason.)

    It’s an addiction where all the withdrawal symptoms are normal.

  10. and in this case, sued—for issues that better parenting could probably solve.

    I’m going to assume that Noah doesn’t have any parenting experience here, ’cause if he did, that sentence would read “…would definitely solve.

    1. I think it would be ‘for issues that a sound ass-beating would definitely solve’.

  11. Cocaine is a hell of a drug

  12. I do believe gaming companies are abusing their clientele with shady monetization schemes, but people enter into those scheme’s willingly and the micro-transaction model exists purely as a way to fool stupid people into spending thousands on ‘free’ games.

    These people almost certainly fell into that scheme themselves by not realizing that twenty bucks here or there add’s up. If you keep spending money on a thing, surprisingly the amount of money you spent on that thing becomes larger.

    One might note that there are few 7 month long activities for their kids that would cost less than $1000 bucks. Why they thought that would be the case here is anyone’s guess.

    1. One might note that there are few 7 month long activities for their kids that would cost less than $1000 bucks.

      ^ This. People talk about video games as if they’re some kind of rip-off, but as entertainment-dollars-for-kids go, video games are a freakin’ steal.


      1. People talk about video games as if they’re some kind of rip-off, but as entertainment-dollars-for-kids go, video games are a freakin’ steal.

        What is endlessly amusing to me are the people who pay $20 bucks per ticket for a two or three hour long movie then turn around and bitch about a video game that costs ~$60 but will be played for likely over 300 hours.

        These types of people are incapable of cost/benefit or time value of money analysis. Full stop.

        We can say it’s immoral, but at the same time it’s providing something that people apparently want and don’t mind spending money on. One might as well bitch about Netflix costing ~$10 a month then quoting that they spent ‘thousands of dollars’ after they’ve been subscribed for years as if they were somehow taken advantage of.

        It’s inane at best, and this only could have come out of a place like Quebec.

        1. I mean, the average playtime on a triple A game (that’s the $60 price point) is maybe 8 or ten hours on the single player ones. It’s still not a terrible deal, but if you’re really looking to keep your kids entertained on the cheap then I recommend Humble Bundle.

  13. I have no sympathy. The solution is to raise your d**m kids better. It isn’t like the transactions aren’t recorded on your bank/credit card statement OR that there aren’t ways to shut down their access if they go against whatever rules of use you’ve laid down.

    1. raise your d**m kids better
      What are the two asterixes supposed to be covering up? What word is this intending to be?

      1. Drum kids. Because they need to be beat on.

  14. “According to the lawsuit, the 10-year-old (referred to as LN) played approximately 1,800 matches of Fortnite in seven months and spent CA$600 on “V-Bucks,” and the 15-year-old (referred to as JZ) played more than 7,000 matches of Fortnite over the course of a year (that’s nearly 20 matches per day), and stays up until 3 a.m. on the weekends and 1 a.m. during the week in order to play the game. The suit claims JZ spent between CA$300 and CA$400 on in-game purchases.”

    Can these “parents” be sued for being so incredibly fucking ineffective in that role? Why are these kids allowed access to financial cards, and why the hell are they allowed to overindulge in electronic media until the wee small hours of the morning [when they presumably pass out from exhaustion]? It’s like persons I’ve met on a flight through Orlando who attempt to negotiate with a two year old to stop kicking the back of my seat.

    Tell them to call Dr Jordan Peterson for some advice on child rearing.

  15. How stupid can you get?
    Its not, “New Class-Action Lawsuit Contends Video Game Fortnite Is as Addictive as Cocaine.”
    Its cocaine that is as addictive as Fortnite.
    For Christ’s sake.
    Get it right!

  16. >>>suing … over allegations Fortnite is “as addictive as cocaine”

    only losers can’t handle their blow. and suing over “allegations” is Doug Mackenzie level stupid.

  17. “Parents in Canada”

    The new “Florida Man”?

  18. Why are a 10 & 15 year old allowed to stay up late to play such an addicting game? And who is (parents) making it possible for these kids to spend this money on such an addicting game? Give me a fucking break. I think their kids need more attentive parents, who care about what they do.

  19. Two Quebec parents are suing Epic Games … over allegations that Fortnite is “as addictive as cocaine”

    But not as addictive as frivolous lawsuits.

  20. New Class-Action Lawsuit Contends Video Game Fortnite Is as Addictive as Cocaine

    So, not addictive at all then. OK, case dismissed.

  21. I hope Fortnite loses and Microtransactions are brought into light. This writers opinion is biased and ill received. Games that are engineered to engage and monitize from their consumers is far past the point of no return. Game companies make more money from in game purchases (That have absolutely no value amd as well as not being able to sell preowned games but thats a seperate problem) than selling at the premium price of $60 per copy. This writer fails to realize the bigger picture of games increasingly becoming more predatory. Sure you can blame the parents but this is a different issue than comparing violent video games to gun violence. This is a terrible article and your opinion is main stream garbage.

    1. Wow.
      Just wow.

    2. New troll in town? Parody?

      1. There’s actually a lot of gamers out there upset about loot boxes and some other types of microtransactions.

        I agree with them wholeheartedly that some of the behavior is pretty bad for consumers, but the solution is definitely not a government one.

  22. I’m calling the Canadian CPS.

  23. that’s a first, suing someone because their product is too good.
    how about the parents pull the plug at 11 PM? and don’t give the kids access to a credit card?

  24. I’m sure this is all true. But what does that say about cocaine?
    I wish people would look at this phenomenon as the reduction to absurdity of the entire concept of “addiction”, which is a major prop to the war on drugs. If people would take the lesson that video game “addiction” is silly despite everything alleged about the biology (dopamine, etc.) and behaviors being true, and then understand that those same things are the only things that make cocaine “addictive”, then maybe we can knock out a big prop from anti-drug attitudes.

  25. One of these things makes you act out and dance strangely in public and the other one is cocaine.

  26. Microtransactions are scummy from a game quality perspective, but the solution is to criticize those who get themselves dirty, not to blame the mud for existing in the first place. I miss the days of being able to customize in-game at no additional cost, but that’s what nice about a free market. You don’t have to play games that don’t let you do this and lots of games are more player-friendly in this regard.

    1. There are plenty of ways to employ microtransactions in ways that don’t feel bad for players. It’s really about what’s being sold than how.

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