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Videogame player sues over his ‘addiction’

It’s fair to say there’s a problem when a grown man spends 20,000 hours playing a videogame about warring Elves and Orcs.

Whether the problem amounts to a diagnosable psychological addiction, who knows? The medical experts say more study is needed.

One man in Hawaii knows he’s addicted and he’s out to hold the maker of a popular online videogame liable for the dislocation in his life.

And, miracle of miracles, he’s found one federal judge who agrees he just may have a case.

Craig Smallwood is 51 and lives in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Living in Hawaii, you’d think Smallwood would find better things to do than sitting in front of a computer all day.

But Smallwood claims that in 2004 he became hooked on Lineage II, an interactive online role-playing game developed by NCSoft Corp., a South Korean firm. According to Smallwood, he became so addicted to Lineage II that from 2004 to 2009 he played the game for over 20,000 hours.

As Smallwood explained it in his complaint, the game provides persistent players with a “great feelings of euphoria and satisfaction,” rendering them psychologically dependent.

Smallwood claims that his Lineage II addiction has left him unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing and interacting with family and friends.

He further alleged that his addiction has required over $125,000 in hospitalization and treatment.

Smallwood filed a slew of claims against NCSoft, the upshot of which was that the company should have warned players of the risk of addiction.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Alan Kay decided that Smallwood’s allegations were sufficient to proceed on claims of negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

“Plaintiff alleges that ‘defendants acted with negligence [or gross negligence] in designing, developing, manufacturing, inspecting, testing, marketing, advertising, promoting, selling, distributing, maintaining, revising, servicing, administrating, and overseeing Lineage II.’ …

“In light of Plaintiff’s allegations, the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a claim for both negligence and gross negligence,” the court said. (Smallwood v. NCSoft)

– Pat Murphy

patrick.murphy@lawyersusaonline.com

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