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Video Game Lawsuits: Developers Face Legal Action for Addictive Gameplay

Over the past 20 to 30 years, studies and mainstream media outlets have blamed video games for desensitizing minors to violence, increased obesity rates, sedentary lifestyles, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Now, developers are facing video game lawsuits from gamers who have become addicted to video games. Learn more about video game addiction and what to do if you or a loved one have suffered from video game addiction below.

What is Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction has been classified as a mental health condition referred to as Internet Gaming Disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. According to the organization, over 160 million Americans play internet-based video games. Emerging research by the organization shows that video games are one of the most addictive technologies available on the market today. Due to its prevalence, mental health professionals in the US and around the world have studied and prescribed effective treatments to relieve the symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder.

Symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder

Those suffering from Internet Gaming Disorder feel compelled to play video games to the point where it affects their daily lives and activities. Victims become isolated from others, suffer from angry outbursts, and experience severe emotional distress. Victims also experience withdrawal symptoms such as poor hygiene, depression, and anxiety.

Symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder include:

  • Preoccupation with gaming.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible.
  • Inability to reduce or quit gaming.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or other activities.
  • Deceiving friends or family about the amount of time spent gaming.
  • Gaming to cope with other emotions, such as depression, sadness, or guilt.
  • Isolation from personal relationships with friends and family.
  • Excessive anger

The American Psychiatric Association specifies that users who display at least five of the above symptoms in the last 12 months could be diagnosed with Internet Gaming Disorder.

 How Game Developers Make Video Games Addictive

Game developers use several tactics to increase the brain’s dopamine levels when playing. These tactics disrupt cognitive functions such as rational decision-making and time perception, which get users to play for longer and spend more money while playing. Tactics gaming companies use to make games addictive include:

Microtransactions

Microtransactions are in-game purchases users can make to enhance their gameplay. These can include better tools or weapons, loot boxes, and skipping challenging levels.

Random Rewards

Positive reward systems reward users for completing tasks. Rewarding gamers for completing tasks is one of the primary tactics game developers use to entice users to play. Game rewards are often simple, such as a rush of fun sounds or brightly-colored confetti when you advance to the next level. Other common reward systems are gaining points, receiving stars, and gathering coins.

Unpredictable Outcomes

Unpredictable outcomes make users feel like they cannot stop playing the game. Players are coaxed with a positive reward (such as defeating the bad guy or going to the next level), but they don’t know precisely when this award will occur. Users are tempted to keep returning to the game to get the reward.

Dark Patterns

This gaming tactic makes users do things unintentionally, such as making impulsive microtransactions. Losing track of time in compulsive gameplay is another dark pattern.

Feedback Loops

A feedback loop reacts to a player’s performance and either rewards or punishes the user based on their actions. Positive feedback loops reward players for doing well, providing them with things to help them do even better. Negative feedback loops establish balance and assist losing players with ways to get ahead or avoid consequences.

 

Consequences of Internet Gaming Disorder

Those with Internet Gaming Disorder suffer several injuries, including:

  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Repetitive Stress Injuries from repeated hand and wrist motions
  • Insomnia or sleep deprivation
  • Aggression and physical anger
  • Loss of employment or education

Video Game Lawsuit Overview

Over a dozen video game lawsuits have been filed since 2022, claiming that the world’s biggest game developers intentionally designed their games to be addictive and failed to warn consumers about the risks and dangers of playing. These lawsuits claim that game developers use deceitful practices to exploit players—specifically children and young adults—and should be held accountable for damages their games cause.

Many of the lawsuits are filed by parents stating that their children have become addicted to video games. They aim to receive compensation for their children’s medical expenses, loss of employment opportunities, and mental health concerns. For instance, a lawsuit in Arkansas filed by a mother claims that her 21-year-old son dropped out of high school because of his addiction to video games. He also experiences withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and rage if he cannot game. Other lawsuits have been filed in Florida, Missouri, and Illinois. These lawsuits are, at their core, product liability claims. They argue that these games were deceptively and defectively designed to encourage addictive behaviors and that developers failed to warn the public.

The defendants in these cases are some of the biggest video game developers in the world, such as Epic Games (the creators of Fortnite), Activision Blizzard, Inc. (creators of Call of Duty), Rockstar Games, Inc. (creators of Grand Theft Auto), Sony Interactive Entertainment (developers of the Xbox gaming console), and Nintendo.

These cases are new, and more cases are being filed every month. Although these cases haven’t been consolidated into multidistrict litigation, video game lawsuits will likely increase with more media attention.

Get Help If You or a Loved One Suffer from Internet Gaming Disorder

If you or a loved one have suffered from Internet Gaming Disorder that has impacted your ability to live your daily life, it’s time to hold gaming companies accountable. You could be entitled to compensation for damages and medical care by filing a video game lawsuit against game developers. Call us at 888-585-5970 or contact us online for a case evaluation.

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