Another Lawsuit Claims Popular Games Are Addictive and Harm Children

Roblox video game addiction

Can Video Games Be Too Addictive For Kids? A Missouri Lawsuit Raises Concerns

A new lawsuit has been filed against video game giants, including Epic Games and Roblox, accusing them of knowingly creating addictive games that harm children. This is the latest in a string of lawsuits targeting the industry over its practices.

A web of tactics to hook young players

The lawsuit, filed in Missouri federal court, names companies like Epic Games (Fortnite), Mojang Studios (Minecraft), and Meta Platforms (Facebook) alongside Roblox. It alleges these companies employ a web of tactics specifically designed to hook young players and keep them spending money on in-game purchases.

The lawsuit details how these tactics include:

  • Reward Systems and Feedback Loops: Games are designed with reward systems that trigger dopamine release in the brain, creating a cycle of pleasure that reinforces continued play. This creates a sense of achievement that young players crave, pushing them to play for longer periods.

  • Limited Transparency and Predatory Monetization: The true cost of in-game items and features is often disguised or downplayed. The lawsuit argues that these schemes use psychological tricks to make spending feel inconsequential, encouraging rapid purchases with limited understanding of the total cost.

  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Games create a sense of urgency by offering limited-time events or exclusive items. This tactic preys on young players' desire to be included and can pressure them to spend money to keep up with their peers.

  • Targeting "Whales": The lawsuit highlights the concept of "whales" - a term for high-spending players. The suit alleges that game companies use special tactics to identify and target these "whales," further pressuring them to spend more money.

  • Lack of Parental Controls: The lawsuit emphasizes the difficulty parents face in limiting their children's in-game spending due to the absence of robust parental control features within the games.

The human cost of alleged addictive video games

Plaintiff Carey Courtwright brought the lawsuit on behalf of her and her child, K.C. (age 12). According to the filing, K.C. began playing video games at age 6 and has steadily increased his playtime. She details how K.C. became addicted to games like Roblox and Minecraft, spending several hours a day, often continuing to play through the night.

The 239-page complaint alleges that K.C.'s addiction has resulted in a cascade of negative consequences, including:

  • Declining Grades: K.C.'s grades reportedly dropped significantly due to the amount of time spent playing games.

  • Social Isolation: The lawsuit claims that K.C. withdrew from social activities and friendships, focusing almost entirely on video games.

  • Physical Health Problems: Courtwright details physical problems allegedly caused by excessive gaming, including pain in K.C.'s hands, eyes, and back, as well as changes in eating patterns.

  • Mental Health Impacts: The complaint alleges that K.C. experienced emotional distress, including depression, anxiety, and withdrawal symptoms when unable to play.

Courtwright, according to the lawsuit, has also suffered as a result of K.C.'s addiction. The filing details her emotional distress, witnessing the negative impacts on her child, and the financial strain caused by K.C.'s in-game spending.

She is seeking compensation for the damages suffered by both her and her child, including medical bills, emotional distress, and financial losses. It also seeks to hold the video game companies accountable for their alleged deceptive practices and to implement stronger protections for young players.

Not the only recent lawsuit

Courtwright’s lawsuit is just the latest in a string of legal troubles for Roblox and other video game companies. Earlier this month, parents filed a class action lawsuit against Roblox, accusing the platform of facilitating an illegal gambling operation targeted at children through its virtual currency, Robux.

In February, a similar class action lawsuit alleged that Roblox exploits its young users who create content for the platform, essentially working for little to no real-world compensation. These lawsuits highlight the growing concern about the potential negative impacts of video games on children and raise questions about the ethical practices of the video game industry.

The plaintiff is represented by Tyler W. Hudson, Eric D. Barton, and Melody R. Dickson of Wagstaff & Cartmell LLP; Breean “BW” Walas, Tina Bullock, and Danielle Ward Mason of Bullock Ward Mason LLC; and Charles M. Stam of Thompson Stam PLLC.

The video game addiction lawsuit is Carey Courtwright, individually and on behalf of K.C., a Minor v. Epic Games et al, Case No 2:24-cv-4055 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Central Division.



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