Quebec judge authorizes class-action lawsuit over 'addictive' Fortnite game
A Quebec judge has authorized a class-action lawsuit against the maker of the popular online video game, Fortnite, after parents of three children who played it argued it was too "addictive."
When the original application was filed in 2019 against Epic Games Inc. and its Canadian subsidiary, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs said they believed this case was a first in Quebec.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Sylvain Lussier authorized the class-action suit on Wednesday.
Three parents from Quebec sued Epic Games, which is based in the U.S., alleging that the game's creators deliberately designed the Battle Royale iteration of Fortnite to be "highly addictive" and that Fortnite caused their minor children to suffer psychological, physical, and financial harm. They are all seeking damages from the company that will be determined at a later date.
The video game manufacturer could be liable, according to the judge, who referred to safety defect provisions of Quebec's Civil Code to support his finding.
None of the allegations in the class-action lawsuit have been proven in court.
Since its release in September 2017, the Fortnite game has risen in popularity, particularly during the pandemic. In 2020, the company said it had amassed more than 350 million players worldwide and during April of that year, players spent more than 3.2 billion hours playing the game.
Fortnite has also attracted celebrities to its virtual world in recent years, including electronic music producers Diplo and deadmau5.
KIDS ALLEGEDLY SPENT HUNDREDS ON GAME, DISASSOCIATED FROM FAMILY
The battle royale style of game sees 100 players battle it out on an island until the last one is standing. It is free to play, but users can purchase in-game currency, called "V-Bucks," using real-world money.
To fuel their addiction, the kids mentioned in the class-action suit spent hundreds of dollars — sometimes without their parents' knowledge — on characters and dances in the game, according to the judgment on the request for authorization to bring the class-action suit against Epic Games.
One of the kids, identified as JO.Z in the document, had played more than 7,781 hours of the game in less than two years, sometimes playing until 3 a.m., the lawsuit claimed.
Another child allegedly played the game for a cumulative 59,954 minutes, the equivalent of 42 full days of playing.
The Quebec judge concluded that there is "no certainty" to the parents' allegations of a deliberately addictive game, but wrote that it "does not preclude the possibility that the game is in fact addictive and that its creator and distributor are presumed to know this," the judge wrote in the 24-page ruling.
The three children developed severe addictions to the popular game, spending almost all of their free time in the virtual world and in some cases not eating, showering, or socializing, the lawsuit alleged.
They became withdrawn from their families and one of them had panic attacks "due to the pressure of the game," according to the lawsuit.
Epic Games can appeal the judgement within 30 days. If the company decides not to, it will have to defend itself from the allegations once the case goes to the trial stage.
A boy plays "Fortnite" in the early morning hours in the basement of his Chicago home on Oct. 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Martha Irvine
LAWSUIT WAS NOT 'FRIVOLOUS': JUDGE
The court filing from the Montreal legal firm representing the parents, Calex, cited in its original application a report by addiction specialist Anita Ghadia-Smith that likened the addictive qualities of playing Fortnite to cocaine addiction.
"The Court is of the opinion that the facts alleged with respect to the plaintiffs' children make it possible to claim, if we put them in relation to the statements of certain experts with respect to the creation of an addiction to video games, and more particularly to Fortnite, that the plaintiffs have a valid product liability claim against the defendants," the judge wrote in his ruling issued on Wednesday.
"The claim does not appear to be frivolous or manifestly ill-founded."
Despite the objections from the defendants, Justice Lussier said the parents "have a defensible case to make" that is in the public interest.
(Fortnite, Epic Games)
One of the parents who sued Epic Games filed with the court a report from a doctor that said her son has been diagnosed with a "cyberaddiction" during a visit on Oct. 25, 2019. The company argued the report was not a formal diagnosis, nor was there "any expert report on causation."
The video game maker also tried to toss out the court action by arguing that there is no clear definition of a video game disorder — an opinion supported by the American Psychiatric Association, which said the subject needs further research. However, the judge noted that the World Health Organization classified video game addiction as a disease in 2018.
The lack of a clearly defined condition for the disorder in Quebec does not render the parents' claims "frivolous" or "baseless," the judge wrote.
"As an analogy, the harmful effect of tobacco was not recognized or admitted overnight."
On Wednesday, the judge modified the criteria for people who qualify for potential damages as those living in Quebec since Sept. 1, 2017, who played Battle Royale and developed "a dependence, or a loss of control over or prioritization of the game, which has had a detrimental effect" on a number of activities, including family activities, educational activities, social activities, among others.
The plaintiffs are also seeking "restitution" from the defendants for all purchases of V-Bucks made by Quebecers under the age of 18 who played the game.
When reached by CTV News on Thursday, Epic Games declined to comment on the class-action lawsuit.
PARENTS TURN TO FORTNITE REHAB
Alessandra Esposito Chartrand, one of the lawyers for the parents, pushed back against the notion that the children's addictions to the game can be boiled down to a lack of parental monitoring.
"It is a much, much deeper issue than people will ever really realize. So basically, these games were created with algorithms and dark patterns that are made to addict you. And once the pattern starts, it's very, very, very hard to get out of it," she said in an interview.
The Montreal lawyer pointed to the fact that Epic Games worked with psychologist Celia Hodent to develop the popular game. However, the judge explained in his ruling that he wasn't convinced by what Hodent said in a 2018 interview with Le Monde that she intended to design a dependent game.
According to Esposito Chartrand, Fortnite was nevertheless "the perfectly designed game" that makes it seem impossible to turn off for some younger players.
"There's something about Fortnite that is completely unique. There are no other games that have therapy centres dedicated to players of that game."
As the popularity of the game surged in recent years, some parents have turned to rehab clinics for their children to seek therapy for their gaming addiction.
It's a problem that McGill University psychologist Jeff Derevensky hears about often.
Derevensky, who is the director of the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours in Montreal, said he regularly gets calls from parents seeking to curb their kids' gaming addictions.
"I get two to three calls a week from parents saying my kid's gaming too much. He's not focused on his schoolwork, he won't interact with the family, he doesn't want to see his friends anymore," he told CTV News.
In extreme cases, he said parents have locked up the child's devices with a key to prevent them from playing Fortnite.
"When the gaming stops they often go into a state of depression," he said.
"We know that they are very conflicted about most individuals when you say do you want to stop. They don't want to stop."
Editor's note: After initially declining to comment on this story, Epic Games spokesperson Nathalie Munoz sent the following statement to CTV News on Friday:
"We have industry-leading Parental Controls that empower parents to supervise their child’s digital experience. Parents can receive playtime reports that track the amount of time their child plays each week, and require parental permission before purchases are made, so that they can make the decisions that are right for their family. We have also recently added a daily spending limit by default for players under the age of 13.
We plan to fight this in court. This recent decision only allows the case to proceed. We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless."
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
A Strathcona County toddler has been rescued from suspected sexual exploitation, and the child's mother has been charged, police said.
LeBron James is the NBA's new career scoring leader. With a stepback jump shot with 10.9 seconds left in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, James pushed his career total to 38,388 points on Tuesday night and broke the record that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held for nearly four decades.
U.S. President Joe Biden exhorted Congress Tuesday night to work with him to 'finish the job' of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation as he delivered a State of the Union address aimed at reassuring a country beset by pessimism and fraught political divisions.
Rescuers raced against time early Wednesday to pull survivors from the rubble before they succumbed to cold weather two days after an earthquake tore through southern Turkiye and war-ravaged northern Syria. The death toll climbed above 7,700 and was expected to rise further.
A Canadian Armed Forces surveillance plane was heading home on Tuesday after two intelligence-collecting flights over Haiti.
A new ranking by global travel site Big 7 Travel has revealed the most Instagrammable places for people to visit in 2023, but only one Canadian location, Banff, is among them.
U.S. intelligence officials believe that the recently recovered Chinese spy balloon is part of an extensive surveillance program run by the Chinese military, according to multiple American officials familiar with the intelligence.
As Valentine's Day approaches, many Canadians are preparing to celebrate by taking their loved ones to dinner and buying them gifts, but how much are we spending on this day coast to coast?
PM Trudeau presents premiers $196B health-care funding deal, with $46B in new funding over the next decade
The federal government is pledging to increase health funding to Canada's provinces and territories by $196.1 billion over the next 10 years, in a long-awaited deal aimed at addressing Canada's crumbling health-care systems with $46.2 billion in new funding.
Meaghan Maloney of London, Ont. said she was driving on her way to work, along Highway 401, in her 2023 Nissan Rogue when the sunroof shattered without warning.
A former medical student who claims he fatally shot a fellow student in self-defence during a drug deal in Halifax denied Tuesday he planned to kill the man and steal the marijuana he was carrying.
Retirement is bittersweet for a Nova Scotia doctor who says she feels like she has abandoned the 2,000 patients she has been caring for because she was not able to find a doctor to replace her.
Police believe a man who was found dead behind a Nova Scotia Power substation in Stellarton, N.S., was trying to steal copper wire.
London’s pledge of 47,000 homes includes assertive letter to province but avoids ‘punching them in the face’
Frustration with the province’s new housing legislation boiled over in council chambers
Several days after the discovery of her body, police in Woodstock have declared the death of 30-year-old Karen Cunningham as 'suspicious' in nature.
A special weather statement is in effect for most of the southern Ontario. A strong low pressure system will bring rain that is heavy at times to London-Middlesex and surrounding areas beginning early Thursday morning.
A northern Ontario woman had the rare opportunity to meet her favourite musician at the Grammys, thanks to social media platform, TikTok.
Several highways in northeastern Ontario are reopened after a winter storm created hazardous road conditions Tuesday morning.
A new survey from the Bank of Montreal is shedding light on Canadians’ concerns about the economy and the impact it will have on retirement plans.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith expressed her concerns with the federal government's proposed 'just transition' legislation directly to the prime minister on Tuesday, saying she hopes the two can find some common ground.
If Alberta accepts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal health proposal, it would see, on average, $2.5 billion over the next 10 years, in line with population growth.
Waterloo regional police say one of the suspects in an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall last week has been located dead.
A dog in desperate need of care was found abandoned during frigid temperatures over the weekend and is just one of the many cases of abandoned dogs, according to Animal Control in that area.
Roundabouts are under the microscope in Waterloo region as regional councillors are reviewing the safety of the road design following a pair of serious collisions involving pedestrians.
Months after threatening action, Vancouver’s park board has evicted campervans and motorhomes parked illegally at a beach on the city’s west side.
While some premiers are calling the health-care offer presented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday "disappointing," B.C.'s David Eby stopped short of that characterization.
Selina Robinson, the B.C. NDP's minister for post-secondary education, has revealed she is once again battling cancer.
An Alberta couple wants to ensure parents-to-be get the full picture when getting a sonogram after their son was born with a severe heart defect.
Warren Foegele scored twice in the second period and the Edmonton Oilers went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 on Tuesday night.
A River Canard, Ont. woman has solved part of a mystery she uncovered while decluttering her home last month. A woman who goes by the name of JoJo reached out to CTV News Windsor last week in an attempt to identify several anonymous war time photographs along with several postcards she found in a box dating back to the 1940s.
Two people have died in a serious single-vehicle crash in Kingsville, a third person was injured and transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
'Now we can sit back, relax and watch our children grow': Retired paramedic celebrates $800K lotto win
A Leamington, Ont. man and retired paramedic has 800,000 reasons to celebrate after he recently won big on an instant lotto game.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed American linebacker “Champ” Larry Dean to a one-year contract extension.
A 50-year-old woman is dead after two semis collided on Highway #1 near Indian Head.
A forensic pathologist offered her expert opinion on how Catlin Goodwill’s three-month-old son died suddenly in October 2017, during testimony on the second day of trial.
There is a new sign of financial issues with an Ottawa construction company that suddenly closed, leaving customers with unfinished projects unable to recoup their losses.
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT | Freezing rain could be on the way this week
Less than a week after extreme cold, Ottawa could see freezing rain and temperatures well above average.
Ottawa LRT service was briefly disrupted downtown because of a water leak in the tunnel at Rideau Station.
Robyn Silvernagle will be making her third appearance at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts next week in Kamloops, BC, just weeks after her team was put together.
Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) is restricting traffic on range road 3062 as they investigate a suspicious death in the area.
Residents at a downtown Saskatoon apartment complex are speaking out about what they say are unreasonable rent increases and a lack of attention to building repairs.