Can You Sue For A Video Game Addiction?

According to the latest statistics, about 155 million Americans play video games on a regular basis. Although the majority don't experience any issues with them, a small percentage do develop an addiction to video games that have led to them spending thousands of hours in front of a computer screen and even dying in some cases. Many victims of this disease and/or their family members have wondered if it was possible to hold game developers responsible for this outcome. It may be possible, but proving the case will be very challenging.

Proving Game Developers Have a Duty to Players

As with any type of personal injury case, it is incumbent on the plaintiff to prove the defendant had a duty of care and that the defendant violated that duty. In the case of video game addiction, the challenge will be proving video game developers have a duty to warn players that a game may be addictive and/or take steps to minimize the risk that susceptible players will become victims of an addiction.

The reality is that not a lot is known about the cause of video game addiction. The condition has been characterized as an impulse-control disorder similar to gambling. A person develops an overwhelming impulse to continue playing the game despite the deleterious effect it has on the individual's life. It is thought that certain game mechanics may feed into this impulse.

For example, after completing a difficult quest, a person may experience a surge of dopamine in the brain upon receiving their reward. Dopamine causes a euphoric feeling that the person may want to continue experiencing and thus lead them to keep playing the game to get that same "high". Because game developers want people to continue playing their games, they may load them with hundreds of quests and tasks that leads the addicted gamer to keep playing to get that surge of dopamine.

However, the trouble plaintiffs may run into with this type of case is that many players are subjected to the same type of triggers and do not become addicted to the games. This can make it difficult to point to video games as being the direct cause of the condition, especially if the rate of addiction is very low (e.g. 1 out of every 100,000 people as a hypothetical example).

You would need to hire expert witnesses who could directly connect something about the game that causes it to have such a psychological, emotional, or even physical effect on a player that a susceptible person would become addicted to it.

Proving What the Company Knew

Another issue is you'll have to show the video game company knew about its product's propensity for causing addiction and the developer did nothing to warn or prevent injury to people who played it. You would have to present evidence to the court that the company either received reports from other addicts or was advised by experts about the addictive nature of the game. This can be tough to do and will typically require the assistance of an attorney who can subpoena records showing what the company knew and when.

Suing over the development of an addiction is immensely complex. It's best to contact a personal injury law firm, such as Terrence Salerno Law Office, to find out the best way to proceed with your case.