A law firm based out of Quebec, Canada, is spearheading a class-action lawsuit against Fortnite on the basis that developer Epic Games masterminded an addictive game designed to tap into the malleable minds of young players to get them addicted to the game.
Claiming that Epic Games purposefully made Fortnite addictive is akin to blaming a developer for making a game that draws in the player and offers a compelling experience. Going by that logic, any good game in history should be subject to the same fate as Fortnite.
Of course, there’s a difference between a critically acclaimed title, like say Bloodborne or Stardew Valley, where developers confine the playtime anywhere from 50 to 100 hours, and Fortnite, which essentially offers a limitless pool of gameplay as a multiplayer match-based affair.
But, the essence of the argument remains the same. Developers strive to make games engrossing and, in general, the more they are, the better the game.
The claim that Epic Games “hired psychologists” rings hollow in light of the game’s long-winded development. Epic tacked on Fortnite battle royale to the erstwhile main Save The World zombie tower defense mode as a means of jumping onto the BR bandwagon that was all the rage at the time thanks to the popularity of PUBG. An afterthought if you will.
Epic Games wasn’t prepared for the game’s sudden transformation into a global phenomenon. Ideal timing and the free-to-play formula combined to create the perfect recipe for success, not the nefarious dealings of a developer intent on corrupting young minds.
Thirty years of game theory may have played a part, but hiring psychologists to craft a game loop to induce addiction is redolent of wild-haired scientists brewing concoctions as malevolent laughs reverberate ominously off sterilized tile walls.
A destructive trend when breaching the topic of addiction is a knee jerk reaction of blaming the said drug, in this case, Fortnite, rather than addressing the underlying psychological, environmental, and even societal factors that lead to addiction – in other words, negating the causes of addiction in favor of a convenient, alarmist scourge corrupting the minds of the youth.
Parenting choices play a big part in how young minds develop a relationship with video games, and while there’s an inherent risk to too much play, personal circumstances are often the deciding factor in whether a passion morphs into an addiction.
Notions like limiting screen-time spring to mind as well as the innate challenges of being a parent in this age of technological glut. Many parents will agree on how useful the screen can be as a temporary babysitter. And, just as many will immediately point to using it sparingly. The onus is on parents to filter and monitor their children’s exposure to video games.
The legal notice says a lot about these particular parents’ mindset:
“If we knew it was so addictive it would ruin our child’s life, we would never have let them start playing Fortnite, or we would have monitored it a lot more closely.”
In many cases, a structured and regulated approach to when and how long a child can play Fortnite would have bypassed the issue. A child can be predisposed to addictive tendencies. Fortnite is merely a vehicle for that, a digital form of escapism that provides respite from demons or difficult personal circumstances. Enabling and even facilitating the development of that addiction falls firmly to the parents, not the game developer.
The lawsuit very much feels like a parent’s desperate attempt to justify a series of unintentional bad choices that led to their child’s perceived Fortnite addiction, and as ever, video games are an easy scapegoat.
The argument is simple; but what of the millions of other teenagers not addicted to Fortnite? Blanketing a title with emotive descriptors is a dangerous game and one that veers sharply from the reality of modern video games. Will the courts deem the suit worthy of their time? Who knows.
But it’s worth remembering that gaming, and in particular Fortnite, can be a source for good and has even been used to battle addiction.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.