Play in Moderation: A Response to the Fortnite Lawsuit

17 Oct 2019

Play in Moderation: A Response to the Fortnite Lawsuit

Fortnite is one of the most successful video games of all time. As of March 2019, Fortnite has amassed over 250 million users worldwide and made over $3 billion in revenue for its developer, Epic Games. The recent conclusion for its 10th season, “The End”, is now one of the most viewed gaming events in history at over 6 million concurrent viewers from Twitch and YouTube. Back in July, the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, the largest tennis stadium in the world, was completely filled by Fortnite fans for the Fortnite World Cup.

However, not everyone loves Fortnite. A Canadian class action lawsuit against Epic Games has accused the developer of purposefully designing the game to hook players, to the point where players have had to get treated for their obsession. The legal notice was filed on October 3rd in Quebec’s Superior Court and states that young players have, among other negative behaviors, stopped eating, showering, and socializing because of Fortnite.

Jean-Philippe Carson, the lawyer behind the lawsuit, claims Epic Games failed to “warn about the risks and dangers inherent in their product.” The game was compared to stimulants  because of its ability to raise dopamine levels and create a dependency on the game. Hundreds of parents have rushed to support the lawsuit, concerned about the game’s impact on their children.

The lawsuit comes months after the World Health Organization (WHO) defined “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition. The WHO describes gaming disorder as “characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” Individuals must exhibit this behavior for at least 12 months in order to be diagnosed.

The WHO, however, also notes that gaming disorder only affects “a small proportion” of people who play video games; it is not at all a rampant issue. It is also an entirely preventable disorder. The WHO recommends that gamers “should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming” and notes that people should be mindful of “changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning” that may be related to their gaming behavior.

Of course, younger children may not be able to self-regulate as well as teens and adults. In their case, their parents or guardians should teach them to play in moderation and help them develop the ability to self-regulate. There are many rules parents can instate at home to encourage and reinforce moderation:

  • Limit gaming time to two hours or less per day, and don’t let kids play every day.
  • Require homework and exercise to be finished first before playing.
  • Move gaming devices out of the bedroom and to a more centralized location.
  • Do not allow technology at the dinner table or during car rides.
  • Ask kids to turn in their devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Do not let kids play games first thing in the morning.
  • Ensure kids are still making real life friends and having face-to-face social interactions.
  • Encourage kids to continue exploring other hobbies.
  • Keep the aforementioned time and location boundaries consistent and maintain them firmly.

Done moderately, gaming can be a wonderful activity that benefits people in many ways. As a hobby that is popular all around the world, gaming can allow both children and adults to bond with others and forge lasting, diverse relationships. A common love for gaming can create a strong sense of community, which in turn can lead to passionate efforts to make the world a better place, as shown by gaming-oriented charity events through Extra Life and Games Done Quick. For individuals with depression, social anxiety, or autism spectrum disorder, games can create safe spaces where social interactions happen at the individual’s own, preferred pace. Individuals with disabilities can connect with Able Gamers Charity to use adaptive technology, such as the QuadStick, to play games, thereby removing themselves from feeling disabled. Gaming ensures an even-level playing field for individuals to thrive. The communication skills and confidence individuals build up virtually can then transfer over to real life settings.

Cooperative games—especially competitive, team-based esports games like League of Legends or Rocket League—can teach players many of the same lessons as traditional sports does. Because players must work together to accomplish an in-game goal, they have the opportunity to learn valuable lessons about teamwork, communication, and cooperation. More and more frequently, educators are establishing esports teams in universities and grade schools throughout America as digital alternatives to traditional sports teams. With the establishment of these teams comes other learning opportunities that relate to esports but do not necessarily require playing the games directly. Students can study statistics by analyzing the data from their esports teams’ matches. They can develop business skills by helping with team management, social media, sponsorship deals, and esports event organization. As streaming and broadcasting are common elements of esports events, students also have the chance to explore video production and graphic design.

Since video games often require focus and quick reflexes, they can train a person’s body and mind. Studies have shown that gaming can improve hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, memory, concentration, eyesight, and the ability to multitask. Games like Nintendo’s Wii Fit and upcoming Ring Fit Adventure more directly enhance physical health by prompting players to engage in exercise routines using motion controls. These “exergaming” titles are often found in hospitals and retirement homes as they provide a fun, personalized way for players of all ages to stay healthy and active. 

Photo Credit: Ring Fit Adventure (Nintendo)

At a more basic level, video games are also simply fun: they engage players’ brains, help people relax, and relieve stress. Well-designed games do feel highly rewarding to players and will naturally increase dopamine levels, whether players are winning a race in Mario Kart or opening a chest in The Legend of Zelda series. What society should focus on is not demonizing games, but ensuring that gaming is balanced with other aspects of life. There are good things to be found in both the real world and in the virtual spaces of games.