Parents Sue Gaming Companies Over ‘Video Game Addiction’, Because That’s Easier Than Parenting

from the addicted-to-addictions dept

Video game addiction. Sigh. Big sigh, even. Like, the biggest of sighs. We’ve talked about claims that video game addiction is a documentable affliction in the past, as well as the pushback that claim has received from addiction experts, who have pointed out that much of this is being done to allow doctors to get money for treatments of this affliction out of insurance companies. And, yet, everyone from some of the largest nations of the world down to individual hockey teams have glommed onto this addiction concept in an effort to yoink away any sense of responsibility or culpability from parents of these “addicted” children. And all of this is being done, mind you, in the context of a society that has absolutely adored blaming games of all kinds for all the world’s ills going back to the Bronze Age.

And into modernity, it seems, with video games now being the go-to scapegoat for everything from male impotence to every mass shooting that ever happens anywhere. It’s important to keep in mind that typically when you encounter someone “addicted” to video games, what is actually happening is that there is some other underlying affliction or condition that is at play, and the obsessive video game playing is a symptom, not the problem itself. Or, if you’re the parents of this 13 year old, you decide not to realize that at all and instead sue a bunch of game publishers over your own failure to parent your child.

The lawsuit, filed on October 30, states that that Microsoft, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, EA, and others use patented designs, algorithms and marketing containing addictive features and technology leading to addiction. These designs and “addictive features”, the claim says utilized data collection of minors, predatory monetization schemes, and feedback loops to keep players more engaged.

“We never imagined when our son started playing video games that he would become so addicted that his education would severely suffer, he would lose all interest in spending time with his friends, and his physical and mental health would be at risk,” said Casey Dunn, the mother who filed the lawsuit on behalf of her child. “These video game companies have targeted and taken advantage of kids, prioritizing their profit over all else. As a mom, I knew I had to do something to ensure they don’t get away with destroying the wellbeing and futures of our children.”

Now, I’ll post the entire suit below this article, so that you can go and read it in its entirety if you would like. But, seriously…don’t. I did and it’s 129 pages and it’s an absolute mess. Before I pull a few specifics out of it and present them for discussion, let me give you a short analysis that drives home the point. The document could be made entirely true simply by doing a find and replace in which you swap out the word “addictive” for “entertaining” in most of the claims section. For instance, the opening includes the line:

By making their games addictive, Defendants maximize profits after the original purchase or free download.

If you swap the words suggested in that sentence, it’s the exact same story, but it’s not actionable legally. And you’re going to find that throughout the suit. It almost becomes a fun game. The suit claims that gaming companies seek to make as much money as they can from gamers by making games addictive. No, entertaining. The suit says that these companies have patents on systems specifically designed to make their games addictive to make more money. No, to make them entertaining. And then from there, it’s the usual nonsense about microtransactions and loot boxes and the like, all of which I too find annoying, but which aren’t actionable and certainly don’t amount to inducing addiction. So if you do go read this thing, just play the game along with me and count all the times you could replace “addictive” with “entertaining” while retaining the same point but in a way that you couldn’t sue over.

And then there are the sections in the suit that I absolutely must quote here. For starters, this sort of thing gets repeated several times in the suit.

Video game addiction impacts thousands of youths and their families across the country, including in Arkansas.

As best as I can tell, this statement comes without citation. The DSM5 does list Internet Gaming Disorder on its list of afflictions, yes, but that comes with a giant caveat on the page talking about how research and debate into whether this is a real disorder is ongoing and unsettled. We don’t even know if this is a real thing, in other words, and the burden of proving it is lies at the feet of those claiming so. As to the claim that this is impacting thousands of youths? Who knows where that came from. Anyway, moving on.

The child in this case, anonymized as G.D., is said to have experienced emotional distress, physical ailments, socialization deterioration, poor performance in school, dropping out of sports, rage, outbursts, diagnoses of ADHD and dyslexia, had to be put on an IEP in school, as well as medication to control his impulsivity. And that all sounds absolutely horrible. It also sounds at first blush that there may be a metric shit ton else going on with this child than can be explained by pointing to a video game controller. Or, as it turns out, multiple video game controllers.

G.D. played or plays the following video games: Fortnite, Rainbow Six, Battlefield, and Call of Duty. G.D. downloaded the games through Google Play and the Microsoft Store, and also plays through Xbox Game Pass Cloud Streaming. G.D. subscribes to and plays games on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. G.D. currently plays games on his Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and on his Android mobile phone.

So this young man became addicted to gaming on his Xbox. And his Switch. And the his Android phone. And presumably on his computer, given the mention of the Microsoft Store. Well gosh golly gee, that sure sounds like there are a lot of gaming machines in the house of this child apparently afflicted with an addiction to gaming. Have the parents ever tired, oh, I don’t know, taking away the gaming devices?

The suit goes into all the different ways that game companies seek to make money from games after purchase. Which, yeah, that’s sort of a thing in the modern gaming industry. And repeating over and over again that these companies are seeking to make as much money as possible isn’t particularly interesting. Of course they are, that’s what companies do. But on the matter of these monetization strategies:

Companies employ tactics specifically to gain heavy users-or ··whales” or “‘VIPs”-and to induce them into spending more money. For instance, when ·’whales” get stuck in the game, they are given a bonus to continue because it is better for the gaming companies to give them occasional free things than for the players to get fed up and stop paying.

“Give up and stop paying” is the exact sort of thing someone who is addicted cannot do. That’s not what addiction is. If you have a heroin addict, for instance, giving them the occasional free hit has no material effect on their addiction status once they are addicted. Sure, that can be a tactic to get them addicted, but not to keep them addicted. An person is either an addict or they are not. This appears to be an inadvertent instance of this suit telling on itself.

There’s more, but I don’t want to play the heavy handed polemicist here. And I don’t simply want to label this some kind of money-grab. It might be, but it might also be the case that we have two overwhelmed parents here who are looking to avoid the responsibility of parenting. Or perhaps they simply aren’t sure what to do, even at the level of taking the gaming devices away. The suit itself indicates this child plays video games roughly 13 hours a day. That certainly indicates that something is going on here on a psychological level and it must be horrible for the parents, whatever this lawsuit actually represents.

But singling out these parents to the tune of millions of dollars when there are millions of other kids out there gaming their time away without negative consequences certainly doesn’t make a lot of sense. Neither does blaming a form of entertainment for whatever is actually happening with this child.

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Companies: activision blizzard, ea, epic games, microsoft

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Comments on “Parents Sue Gaming Companies Over ‘Video Game Addiction’, Because That’s Easier Than Parenting”

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Anonymous Coward says:

These video game companies have targeted and taken advantage of kids, prioritizing their profit over all else.

Who are these people? Communists? /s, but that would be the response in the case of any industry besides the moral-panic-culture-war-of-the-day targets. Including industries which do real physical harm, but hey no regulation (or deregulation) because capitalism. Games and platforms? We can do every unconstitutional thing we want because reasons.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I recommending listening to the Dan Bull song 40 Years of Gaming whilst reading the lawsuit.

These lyrics seem on point:

Hijack your mind, your momma can’t abide this
Night Trap might lack morals, it’s a moral crisis
What are we doing to our youth?
They’re shooting people
Glued to screens with superglue
Computers need to be banned when the laws broke
Ban Manhunt
Ban Grand Theft Auto

Anonymous Coward says:

That certainly indicates that something is going on here on a psychological level and it must be horrible for the parents, whatever this lawsuit actually represents.

Is that level of game play an avoidance tactic, because the parents do not engage with their children in a meaningful way, and the children would rather not engage with them.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

If only those evil evil companies hadn’t purchased the various devices to run these games for the minor.
If only they weren’t paying the bills for the services.
If only…

My kid plays to many games and when I tell them not to they whine and I shouldn’t have to deal with that!
This must be the big companies fault.

They make you train & take a test to get a drivers license, but any 50 yr old can knock up his 10 yr old GF, marry her in West Virginia and become a parent.

Anonymous Coward says:


Yeah. The urge to put it all on the parents when game companies have had countless digital ink spilled on their scummy-ass tactics, it bothers me. It’s like all of the literal scams the companies pull go out the window and out of people’s memories when they can get Internet Cynic Edgelord Points by saying that someone’s parents were shitty.

Anonymous Coward says:


As a person who had been addicted to MMO many years ago and had my life ruined I don’t blame my parents at all. They tried their best to stop me but nothing worked just like you can’t get a drug addict to stop by taking away their drugs. My mind consisted of nothing but the game at that point. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t.
I still blame these gaming companies for taking advantage of me and ruining my life when I was the most vulnerable.

Anonymous Coward says:


One of the biggest problems with it is how “Think of the Children” arguments draw attention away from where they make the REAL money from these kinds of shady business practices.

Kids don’t have paying jobs which take up most of the time in their day. Kids make up a minimal fragment of the market for microtransactions.

Publishers are HAPPY to be seen as making positive changes to show their good faith by cutting kids out of the equation, because they know it covers for the OTHER ends of their business.

Mononymous Tim (profile) says:

Or.. could be that someone broke into their house and forced the kid to play those games at gunpoint, but that’s not in the lawsuit (not that I’d need to read it to find out), much like why the parents can’t control their child by simply taking the gaming gear away, or heck, stop pouring money into the kid’s “addiction” with subscriptions and such.

I hope the opposing side and the judge schools the clueless parents on the things they actually do have control of, LIKE THEIR OWN CHILD for a start.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Addicted” has a formal definition that assumes a “dependency.” I doubt that word applies to impulsive behavior. Too many years ago, I overdosed on girls, computers, and surfing, which meant I got too little sleep and didn’t pay a lot of attention to my homework. Strangely enough, I graduated from college, had multiple successful and lucrative careers while entertaining a succession of expensive, absorbing hobbies. Although just a little bit retired, I still spend way too much time programming, attending Board meetings, and obsessively pursuing a new hobby a couple of times a year. I think I’m addicted to “learning.” Is there some wealthy business I can sue?

Cat_Daddy (profile) says:

Sooo, what do the parents get out of this exactly?

This lawsuit is genuinely stupid. Video game addiction is a thing, but it’s not as bad as these jackasses assume, it’s about as harmful as drinking half a soda or spending an hour on the internet. I mean what are these people are trying to gain? A ban? Monetary restitutions? Clout? Validation? Honestly if any of these parents that actually do think that this lawsuit’s in the right and not some moral theatrics, then honestly it’s more on the parents than the game companies they’re suing against.

But with all that being said, I don’t think the AAA companies should get off Scott free. Not on the stupid “game addiction” part, but other things that make this part of the gaming industry a toxic hellhole. Things like the horrific treatment of average coders and designers, the monopolistic, “fish-eat-fish” chokehold on smaller game studios, releasing half-finished and under polished games out to the public, the shady and predatory gambling systems that are snuck in games against audiences’ consent, just splitting up games into pieces just for monetary sake and many, many many other things. All of those things are worth bringing them to the courts for. But no, let’s go with the most stupid, dead-on-arrival reason of video game addiction and sue these companies on the most subjective and abstract grounds possible.

Like I said, this lawsuit says less on the AAA gaming industry and more so on these dumbass parents.

Anonymous Coward says:


releasing half-finished and under-polished games out to the public

And, while I agree with the sentiment and many, many things you said, it is flat-out impossible to release complete, bug-free games to a public that wants their cake and eat it.

Sure, gut Advertising and gire the Board. Sure, let the industry get unionized. Sure, regulate the abuse of gambling systems and psychology.

On the flip side, I’d like gamers to also be patient. At least for a reasonable amount of time. Hold the industry to account, yes. But also know that games are even more complex than your average piece of software.

Cat_Daddy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, I should’ve rephrased that point clearer. It’s not the fact that the AAA companies/developers push out half-baked games, it’s the fact that they don’t give the necessary leeway and time for staff to properly make a game. I’m talking about how game development is often rushed and crunched, putting deadlines over the well-being of workers and a quality game.

But I do agree, gamers are in some way apart of the impossible standard in gaming.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'The games we keep buying for our kid(s) are terrible for them!'

Even if they were right they’d still be wrong, and if anything would just come out looking worse than they already do.

Say for the sake of argument that gaming actually was just as addictive as the usual examples that one thinks of when the word comes up like smoking, drinking and drugs. The gaming companies may be the ones selling the products but ultimately it’s the parents who were buying them and letting the kid keep using it.

You wouldn’t give a pass to a parent who complained about how dangerous and addictive cigarettes are while they kept buying them for their kids, why should they be granted one if smoking is replaced with gaming?

Arijirija says:

The child in this case, anonymized as G.D., is said to have experienced emotional distress, physical ailments, socialization deterioration, poor performance in school, dropping out of sports, rage, outbursts, diagnoses of ADHD and dyslexia, had to be put on an IEP in school, as well as medication to control his impulsivity.

Anyone diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia’s not going to find school easy. Put a kid with both those syndromes in your average school, and he or she is bound to face emotional distress, because most other kids will put them down in one way or another. That’s what causes problems with socialization, need I add … ditto for poor performance academically or in sports.

I think probably the best thing these parents could do for their child is to use that fixation with video games, to interest him in programming to get a handle on things, things connected with the real world, and giving him a methodology to solve problems. That, based on my experiences as a school misfit, is the way to improve those issues.

(The theme song is of course Pet Shop Boys’ Suburbia, these lines in particular:
It’s on the front page of the papers:
“This Is Their Hour of Need”
Where’s a policeman when you need one
To blame the colour TV?

Anonymous Coward says:

A friend’s son was a drug addict. He no longer takes opiates, but he now spends 13 hours a day playing computer games and chain smoking. As the author said, the excessive gaming is a symptom of deeper underlying problems. If you took away the games the compulsive behavior might switch to porn or food, or likely back to drugs.

They do have a point that industry monetization practices could be considered deceptove

Zidders Roofurry says:

What a shitty title. It has nothing to do with lazy parenting and everything to do with game publishers using sleazy methods to lure kids in. It’s about them going around parental means of monitoring their kids and putting deceptive/manipulative features in kids’ games.

Game publishers like Epic absolutely target kids. Just look at the mess that is Roblox. They’ve created an environment where they’re using children as free and/or forced labor. The headline is misleading and the ignorance presented in this article is more than a little gross.

It’s almost like Techdirt is aligned with the industry it wouldn’t have a reason to exist without.

terop (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

it’s good to get to play games for free thanks to some dipshits being willing to buy imaginary items for it

I actually purchased these angry birds mechandise myself. There was some xmas party and everyone was supposed to bring gifts that were then distributed to participants. The red angry bird merch isn’t actually imaginary item like you described it, but actually a real bird which will scream if you press it hard.

This was 10 years ago, just after the phone company had dumped 3000 employees, so the angry birds merch was definitely needed. Basically you don’t have enough bits to bash Rovio’s good work on gaming and mechandice. They copied their playbook from star wars, and its showing.

If our mechandice purchases gives you free gaming credits, that’s all ok, given that copying the damn games after development is free as a pigeon. Damn Rovio company got my mom interested in birds and piggies that now my bookshelf is full of angry birds stuffed toys:

Rocky says:


What a shitty title. It has nothing to do with lazy parenting and everything to do with game publishers using sleazy methods to lure kids in. It’s about them going around parental means of monitoring their kids and putting deceptive/manipulative features in kids’ games.

It’s good to know that you have studied this in depth and have a provable cause to video game addiction, you might inform all the medical organization’s that have studied this in depth and haven’t come to a consensus about the causes for this type of addiction. I’m sure they’ll happily accept the word of some internet rando.

Anonymous Coward says:


It’s about them going around parental means of monitoring their kids

Sure, because Microsoft and Apple are secretly leaving Xboxes and iPhones outside people’s houses for the kids to grab when nobody’s looking.

Look… do gacha mechanics and FOMO microtransactions appeal to a certain mindset that can be taken advantage of? Absolutely. Does that mean a parent can’t minimize or eliminate the issue? Absolutely not. If it’s a problem? Don’t let your kid have a smartphone. Restrict internet usage at home. Don’t buy video game consoles. Periodically check your kid’s school computer to see if they’ve installed any games you don’t want them to use. It’s really not that hard.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:


…there are provable pathways for addiction. A lot of it has to do with scrambling or rewiring the brain to force a chemical dependency on a drug.

Or, in simple terms, there are drugs that force you to keep taking them. Like ALCOHOL and NICOTINE.

Gaming addiction is… new, yes, but addiction is only seen in extreme cases, and even the professionals who study this have grave issues with the disorder. And those extreme cases tend to also have extenuating circumstances, like… BEING BORN IN A DYSTOPIAN SHITHOLE.

PaulT (profile) says:

“G.D. played or plays the following video games: Fortnite, Rainbow Six, Battlefield, and Call of Duty.”

So did many people who didn’t have the same problems. These arguments tend to fall apart in the same way as previous attacks on music, movies, comics, etc. did once you realise that even if true, the person described is an extreme outlier.

But, yeah, this kid apparently has more gaming devices than I do and is allowed to play way more than I was allowed to as a kid. That might be a clue.

George Hamdog (user link) says:

writer is mentally brain damaged

Bro. You actually think the world isnt a malicious place you have got to be either a child or a complete idiot.

Yes video game companies make games addicting, not more entertaining. When Diablo 4 makes it so that it takes 5 seconds of loading to artificially add load times so that the user is engaged for longer because SCIENTIFICALLY at certain times its proven people keep playing if they just enagge that long.
The companies arent just making up shit and its more entertaining bro, they are literally adding load times, or removing content and making it gachad. That is malicious. you fucking clown of a shit ass writer.

Secondly, These loot crate systems as an example, are designed to be a gambling quick time event. Its designed to manipulate you into thinking that you have better odds than you really do to win. Its fucking gambling bro. You cant say the companies re completely innocent when Gambling is literally illegal and highly regulated in the US and Canada. So Ur fucking stupid. This article seems to be written by a complete fucking pleb with no fucking understanding how the world works. This writer is just wandering through life assuming no one is malicious and everyone wants the best for everyone else and these retards shouldnt ever get addicted or think its gambling. EVEN Though there are several laws and endless regulations to ensure that children are not exposed to addictive shit (alcohol, cigarettes, porn) and these video game companies use those exact same tactics on these children. You fucking absolute abomination for a reasonable human being. Good fucking luck you absolute fairy. Worst article I have read in a long fucking time. Completely out of touch with reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Video game addiction is a thing – like there have been cases in Korea where people have died after not being able to stop playing their game for days. Of course people can get addicted to gaming in the same way people can get addicted to gambling, porn, etc. I think the parents’ claims and the moral panic can be disputed without denying the existence of gaming addiction.

Anonymous Coward says:


It does happen, in rare circumstances, and it’s usually a symptom that hints at other problems.

However, a lot of the vested interests (read: the countries funding the WHO, excluding the US because Orange Man actually cut American funding to the WHO) don’t like exposing the problems of their societies to others.

Even the people who rely on the ICD11 and DSM5 are divided on this issue, with the critics saying the inclusion is based off bad science.

Daydream says:

Have you watched What Went Wrong With Gaming? It’s a video I keep coming back to.
It’s 30 minutes long, but in a nutshell, it talks about:
Gacha/lootboxes that sell uncertainty and potential for real money, like gambling.
How the existence of online play gives you the opportunity to show off rare/costly stuff to other players.
Microtransactions being much easier and less risky to produce than full games or expansion packs; also the opportunity for developers to withhold stuff from a base game to later sell as microtransactions.
Energy systems (of the ‘limited tries/time per day’ variety) and daily rewards being used to slow progression and make people come back daily, thus creating a habit.
Making you pay real money for an in-game currency to then buy stuff helps mask the real-money cost of things, and carefully pricing those packs so that there’s always some currency ‘left over’ and therefore wasted (thereby creating pressure to buy more so you can use all of it this time).
Offering ‘huge’ beginner deals (like a ‘first time’s free’ drug dealer), because people who make a purchase once are likely to do so again.
Putting an expiry date on purchased stuff so players have to buy replacements again and again.
‘Loyalty’ systems that give players a gradually increasing reward the longer they remain subscribed (that resets if they unsubscribe, even if they come back).
Limited-time battlepasses that create a Fear Of Missing Out.
And straight-up selling power/progression, while making getting the same things without paying real money an hours long repetitive grind.
How many of these manipulative monetization and player-drag-in strategies do Fortnite, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, and Battlefield use? I quickly googled and the first page results for each are somewhat incriminating…

Anonymous Coward says:


Yes, the gaming industry’s guilty of abusing basic psychology to do that.

Sadly, it’s not limited to just video games.

But remember, that’s normal in the shitty dystopia we live in known as late-stage capitalism. And it’s hilariously ironic, considering that the damn case is in fucking Arkansas, the state that wants to put kids to work in meatpacking plants.

Anonymous Coward says:


See this is why I didn’t just reflexively dismiss the lawsuit as a pointless moral panic reaction. The games industry do a lot of this manipulation to target vulnerable people – from children to adults with various neurodivergent conditions.

Does the lawsuit reek of opportunism? Arguably yes. Does that mean it has no merit whatsoever? No it doesn’t.

Bob says:

Bad advice

This is an amateur take on the situation at best. The author clearly has no clue how the DSM is meant to be used and applied and assumes the lack of a specific category for gaming addiction means it somehow doesn’t exist.

Being a technology consultant doesn’t make you a mental health expert when it comes to using technology.

Anonymous Coward says:


How nice of you to ignore the fact that even the mental health experts whose job is to ACTUALLY research said disorder disagree with its inclusion in BOTH DSM5 and ICD11 due to a lack of evidence.

Oh, and there are also rumors of certain countries trying to force the disorder onto the damn things too, but both are rather inconvenient to your damn narrative.

Lisboeta says:

Unless that 13-year-old is already working in a meatpacking plant during every hour he isn’t gaming, someone bought him all those gaming devices? Assuming the games aren’t free, who is paying for them? Who is paying for any in-game purchases? And, given that he’s a teenager, if his parents are constantly haranguing him about playing the games, then he’ll damn well carry on doing it! It might be far more useful for the child, and his parents, to seek the help of a counsellor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Did you miss the memo? Several states are trying to (and have) legalize child-labor so they can work in meat-packing plants.

That means if the children are working in the meat-packing plant they don’t have the time to get addicted to games. Plus the fact that a lost limb or two makes it harder to game.

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