A Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a class action lawsuit against Epic Games, the developers of the popular video game Fortnite.
The suit was brought to court for the first time in 2019 by three Quebec parents who claimed that Fortnite was designed to get its users, many of whom are children, addicted to gaming.
According to the initial filing, the plaintiffs claim their children exhibited troubling behaviors including not sleeping, not eating, not showering and no longer socializing with their peers.
According to the file, one of the children was diagnosed with drug addiction by a doctor on duty at a Quebec clinic, or CLSC, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region. He also notes that the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized addictive gaming disorder as a disease in 2018.
Jean-Philippe Caron, one of CaLex Legal’s lawyers working on the lawsuit, said the case is reminiscent of a 2015 Quebec Superior Court decision that found tobacco companies don’t had not warned their customers of the dangers of smoking.
“[The game] has design patterns that make sure to always encourage player engagement. You have to understand that the prefrontal cortex of children is still developing…so that might be part of why this game is particularly harmful,” he said.
The class action will also discuss in-game purchases, namely cosmetic items – known as skins – and the game’s Battle Pass system, which offers expansive rewards as players level up.
Overspending on V-Bucks
The kids are said to have spent excessive amounts on V-Bucks – an in-game currency that users buy with real money – which can be redeemed for skins or used to unlock the Battle Pass.
One of the children allegedly spent more than $6,000 on skins, while another spent $600 on V-Bucks – items that Superior Court Judge Sylvain Lussier described as “without any tangible value”.
This may run counter to article 1406 of the Civil Code of Quebec, according to which “the serious disproportion between the performances of the parties” – that is to say the obligation to provide something in return – “creates a presumption of exploitation”.
“What we’re saying is basically young people are spending their pocket money buying something that does absolutely nothing, ie skins or a Battle Pass,” Caron said.
Caron said they encourage others whose lives have been negatively affected by Fortnite to get in touch, as they may eventually be eligible to join the class action.
“Whether it’s in their grades at school, an increase in aggression, the fact that they no longer have social contact – so any impact Fortnite eu, personally, on the family, on social and educational or professional activities – we invite you to contact us.”