Video Game Addiction Lawsuits: When Gaming Turns into Grief

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Personal Injury | 0 comments

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Have you played video games?

How long have you spent time on video gaming?

Have you felt lonely and distressed when you couldn’t play video games?

These questions, though look different, are interconnected. Video games are introduced to this world as part of entertainment and engaging the young minds with fun-filled thrillers. However, soon the story of joy and excitement has turned to tales of disrupted young lives being exploited emotionally and financially.

Curios to know how the video games spoiled the lives the younger generation, which sparked the recent video game addiction lawsuits? Travel with me into the article, as we glide through unexpected outcome of video game addiction and the course of video game addiction lawsuits.

Video Games- Entertainment or Entrapment?

Video games are a source of entertainment, offering immersive experiences and engaging storytelling. They provide the players with opportunities to explore virtual worlds, develop strategic thinking and enjoy social interactions with gaming communities. On one side, there are some benefits to video games such as improving hand and eye coordination, problem solving skills and even stress relief.

However, the introduction of microtransactions (MTX) and gameplay mechanics raise a concern for potential entrapment. Microtransactions in video games are designed using operant conditioning to encourage impulsive purchases. Limited-time offers prompt impulsive buys, while the desire to outdo friends in obtaining items or achieving higher levels drives players towards pay-to-win microtransactions. The constant introduction of new items and levels perpetuates this cycle.

Video Game Addiction and Its Impacts

Many games employ tactics to exploit psychological triggers, encouraging players to spend money impulsively and spend excessive time in the game. These practices can often lead to financial strain, social isolation, and even mental health issues. This blurs the line between entertainment and exploitation.

Video game addiction or internet gaming disorder is engulfing majority of American youngsters like an epidemic similar to that of vaping at present.

When the children and young adults started getting addicted to the gaming features and began spending a lot of money, parents became alert. However, this awareness of financial exploitation could not help them save their kids. The addiction have made them furious and aggressive when they are asked to stop playing. This excessive addition to video games have led some parents to pursue video game addiction lawsuits against the gaming companies.

News on Video Game Addiction Lawsuit Dismissal

A recent news on the first video game addiction lawsuit getting voluntarily dismissed in the midweek in June 2024 turned the attention of many parents and litigators towards the ongoing video addiction lawsuits.

Plaintiff Cynthia Jimenez has filed a lawsuit on behalf of her child (identified as I.C.) against the famous video game companies such as Epic Games, Roblox, Google, Microsoft, and Nintendo in East Saint Louis federal court in November 2023. She sought compensatory and punitive damages for her grandchild identified as “I.C.”

She accused that the defendants were intentionally negligent in developing addictive video games and fraudulent in adding many attractive features in the games to pull the gamers into the deceptive world.

According to the lawsuit, I.C. started playing video games at the age of seven “at an increasing and uncontrollable pace.” The addiction took the child to spend around 35 hours a week in playing games in Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft. The child becomes furious if asked to discontinue playing the games.

However, on certain grounds the case was dismissed as no authenticated gaming accounts of the child could be produced to prove his addiction to Fortnite, a gaming platform. Plaintiff Jimenez and her counsel affirmed that plaintiff had witnessed the kid’s addiction and aggressiveness. Later they withdrew the lawsuit against all the video game companies.

Jiminez’ case was one among the other video addiction lawsuits filed in the federal courts of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, and Minnesota.

Earlier, the plaintiffs Casey Dunn and Thomas Dunn (filed on behalf of G.D., a minor) plaintiffs Preston Johnson and Elizabeth Jones, plaintiffs Cynthia Jimenez, (filed on behalf of I.C., a minor) plaintiffs Jacyln Angelilli, (filed on behalf of D.G., a minor) and plaintiff Harper Glasscock (collectively known as “Movants”) filed a request to consolidate all the video addiction lawsuits in different federal courts. However, the court denied that as there were only 15 video game addiction lawsuits filed so far.

Before moving into the specifics of other lawsuits, let’s see the defendants involved in the video game lawsuits.

Defendants in Video Game Addiction Lawsuits

  • Activision Blizzard, Inc.
  • Apple, Inc.
  • Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
  • BlueStacks by Now.GG, Inc. d/b/a BlueStacks
  • Electronic Arts, Inc.
  • Epic Games, Inc.
  • Google, LLC
  • Infinity Ward, Inc.
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Mojang Studios
  • MSI Computer Corporation
  • Nintendo of America, Inc.
  • Raven Software Corporation
  • Roblox Corporation
  • Rockstar Games, Inc.
  • Rockstar North Limited
  • Sony Interactive Entertainment, LLC
  • Sledgehammer Games, Inc.
  • Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.
  • Treyarch Corporation
  • Ubisoft Divertissements, Inc. d/b/a Ubisoft Montreal
  • Ubisoft Entertainment

Allegations in Video Game Lawsuits

The lawsuits allege that the video game companies use behavioral psychologists and neuroscientists to develop games that employ psychological tactics, such as reward systems and loot boxes. This is done to keep players engaged for longer periods and encourage them spending time on in-game purchases.

They also purported that the video game addiction led to structural changes in the brain, such as reduced white matter density and gray matter volume, and various physical symptoms like obesity, sleep disorders and high blood pressure. Video game addictions caused psychological impacts among the gamers.

The lawsuits also accused that the defendants targeted the minor and young adults by providing special rewards and items needed to advance in the games. This slowly persuaded the gamers to make in-game purchases or microtransactions.

The lawsuits alleged that these video games are designed in such a way to make the players addictive, which causes various physical and mental health issues.

The video game lawsuits were filed based on the following allegations:

  • Strict liability – design defect
  • Strict liability – failure to warn
  • Strict liability – failure to instruct
  • Negligence – design
  • Negligence – failure to warn
  • Negligence – failure to instruct
  • Negligence per se
  • Negligence – ordinary
  • Gross negligence
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Fraudulent misrepresentation
  • Fraudulent concealment
  • Fraudulent inducement
  • Negligent misrepresentation
  • Civil conspiracy
  • In-concert liability

Video Game Addiction Symptoms

We can spot symptoms as noted below in the kids addicted to playing video games.

  • Anxiety
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Brain damages
  • Depression
  • Inability to function in school
  • Inability to become a self-supporting member of society
  • Loss of impulse control
  • Lowered cognitive abilities
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Stress
  • Verbal memory deficiency

Don’t think that these are just like symptoms of any other diseases, which you can cure with simple treatment. Video game addiction can go deeper than the physical damages.

Aftermath of Video Game Addiction

outcome-of-video-game-addiction-is-video-game-addiction-lawsuits

  • Physical health impacts

Prolonged screen time can cause digital eye strain, dry eyes and other vision-related symptoms. Spending a lot of time in one place leads to lesser physical activity, resulting in obesity, cardiovascular issues and musculoskeletal issues. Continuous use of video game controllers can affect the hand and wrist joints too. Too much addiction can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia, poor sleep and even fatigue. Some kids even fail to maintain personal hygiene.

  • Psychological impacts

Continuous gaming can cause increased levels of stress and anxiety, especially when it interferes with daily activities. If the kids couldn’t proceed further in levels or beat their friends in progress, it can build up more stress in the kids. Even the lack of physical activity and social interaction can lead to loneliness and depression.

Excessive addiction to games robs the kids of attention and focus in other tasks or activities. Violent video games can slowly mold violent behaviors in the player. When they could not play or make in-game purchases to move further, the kids may become aggressive towards the parents and even make them inflict injuries to themselves and others.

  • Social impacts

Being immersed in video games, kids isolate themselves from family and friends. They refuse to face the real world. This will create relationship strains with the family members. Excessive addiction can impact academic performances, or job loss and difficulty to maintain employment.

When kids and young adults start getting addicted to the game, it creates a leak in the parents’ finance. This can even create risky behaviors in the kids like gambling.

Having understood the gravity of video game addiction, let’s analyze the details of other ongoing video game addiction lawsuits and their significance.

Video Game Lawsuits- A Detailed Analysis

Kushanel Donerson

Kushanel Donerson alleges that her 14-year-old son has played games like “Call of Duty,” “NBA 2K,” “Grand Theft Auto V,” and “Roblox” so excessively over the past nine years. As a result, it has resulted in brain damage, stroke, and seizures.

Jaclyn Angelilli

Jaclyn Angelilli filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois, on behalf of her 9-year-old child. The child has been playing these video games at an uncontrollable speed even at the age of six. This addiction had led to multiple psychiatric disorders.

Her lawsuit targets multiple game developers, claiming that their games are inherently addictive and have caused severe emotional and psychological harm to her child.

Casey Dunn and Thomas Dunn

The Dunn family filed a lawsuit in the court of Arkansas on behalf of their minor son, G.D. He was 13 years-old at the time of filing the lawsuit. He played games such as Fortnite, Rainbow Six, Battlefield, and Call of Duty.

They alleged that excessive gaming led their child to significant behavioral and health issues, including playing for 12-14 hours per day and spending over $3,000 on in-game purchases. They accused that the defendants’ “unlawful, negligent, fraudulent, reckless, intentional, and deceptive conduct” have led to their son’s condition.

Preston Johnson and Elizabeth Jones

Elizabeth Jones filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son Preston Johnson. The 21-year old Preston engaged himself in video games at the age of 12. He even dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to stay at home and play video games. He played games such as Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox.

She alleged that her son lost his friends, experienced depression and withdrawal symptoms like rage and anger. Her lawsuit wanted to make the video game industry to be held accountable for what they have done to the youth.

Harper Glasscock

Harper Glasscock, a 24-year-old woman filed a lawsuit in Missouri. She started playing video games at the age of 4 and continued until she was 24.

She claimed that her addiction to video games has caused her brain damage and cognitive issues. She argued that the games are designed to be addicting.

Michael Antonetti

Nineteen year old Michael Antonetti started playing the games when he was 11 years old. He played video games 12 hours per day. He was diagnosed with ADHD.

He suffered “brain damage, trouble focusing and being off task during school hours, acting disrespectfully, lying to parents and/or teachers, gamers rage, dropping grades, severe emotional distress, diminished social interactions, loss of friends, and withdrawal symptoms such as rage, anger, and physical outbursts,.” He needed “outpatient counseling and private tutoring” to come out of the addiction.

Video Game Lawsuit Challenges

The plaintiffs in video game addiction lawsuits may find certain challenges in proving the addiction and the negligence of the defendants.

The gaming lawsuits stand to benefit from early rulings in social media cases that have weakened the legal shield provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law has traditionally protected platforms from being sued over user-generated content. However, recent rulings have determined that algorithms designed to keep users engaged do not fall under this protection.

Even if plaintiffs overcome the Section 230 hurdle, they face additional challenges. The companies argue that their games are protected as free speech under the First Amendment. Moreover, existing product liability laws were written for tangible goods, not software, complicating the legal arguments.

Let’s see some other major challenges below:

Diagnosing gaming addiction: The medical community do not have a standard consensus on defining and diagnosing the gaming addiction.

Proof of causation: Establishing a direct link between the gaming and addiction is difficult as the symptoms can also arise from pre-existing psychological conditions.

Responsibility of the user: Defendants can argue that players and, in the case of minors, their parents are responsible for managing gaming habits.

Proving defective design: Plaintiffs must prove that the defendants intentionally made addictive design to impact the users. Defendants might argue that they comply with industry standards.

Absence of legal precedence: Few or no pre-existing cases similar to this, making the cases unpredictable and requiring complex expert testimonies to prove the damages.

Economic damages: Plaintiffs have to demonstrate financial and non-economic damages caused by the gaming addiction.

Public’s favor: Gaming is welcomed by most of the public and proving its addictive nature is not that easy as that of substance (drug) addictions.

Wrapping up,

The growing number of video game addiction lawsuits stresses on the significance of stringent rules to regulate video game industry. Children and young adults were getting more and more addicted to the video games in the past decade. The recent video game addiction lawsuits hint that American parents have become alert on the demon that is spoiling their kids at least now.

Let’s hope these lawsuits bring a significant change in the way parents going to monitor their kids’ screening time and the industry becoming responsible and prioritize the players’ well-being and implementing safeguards against the addictive game mechanics.

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Medlegal 360

MedLegal360 is a specialized author in medical-legal matters, providing clear, authoritative insights on healthcare legislation and personal injury litigation for professionals and the curious.

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