A 28-year old Russian man who lost his wife and job and whose health declined due to addiction to playing the Bethesda-developed game, Fallout 4, sued the company for not placing a warning label to indicate that the game is addictive. The man is seeking 500,000 Rubles ($7,033.14) as compensation for his losses.
It's difficult to laugh over the situation because game addiction is really becoming problematic. Games are so accessible and can be purchased with just one click, and many people seem to be dependent on warning labels and are quick to refuse accountability for their own actions when they face risks.
After all, it had been joked that one of the biggest lies of humanity happens when one ticks the check box labeled "I have read the Terms and Conditions."
What kind of condition is "Game Addiction?"
Game addiction is not a psychological condition yet but, yes, it is currently under reconsideration because it is undeniably happening. In 2007, the American Medical Association already rejected the idea that video game addiction is a legitimate mental disorder but more cases and studies between 2007 and 2015 may open up the possibility of it being reconsidered.
However, since game addiction is not a "legitimate" psychological condition at present, there is no way for the man to win a case against Bethesda with just that reason because it won't be diagnosable.
Whose fault is it anyway?
To be sure, there are many Fallout 4 players to the point that the game boasted an all-time peak of 471,955 concurrent players on Nov. 15 and with the lowest number at 96,414 recorded by Steamcharts on Dec. 18. Those numbers alone show that there must be something about the game to attract a huge number of players and keep them coming back which is exactly what Bethesda wants for its game. However, does it necessarily mean that Bethesda is aware of its game's addictive tendency and is knowingly putting the players at risk? If it is, then Bethesda would be at fault.
It must be noted that extreme cases such as the Russian man's is not a common occurrence but would the minute percentage of player this man represents automatically release Bethesda from responsibility? In the first place, a 28 year old married and working adult should probably know how to make better decisions for himself, right? If you're quick to agree, then it's completely the man's fault.
Other conditions need to be factored in such as the man's status at work and how well his marriage was going prior to his three-week gaming binge due to addiction. Psychologists believe that motivation is a major factor in becoming addicted. "People who game for fun or socializing are less likely to become addicted than people who are caught up in the need for status or simply to escape from the problems in their lives," Dr. Romeo Vitelli wrote.
Should Bethesda and other game developers be forced to have a label warning against addiction on its games?
From an objective perspective, it wouldn't hurt if developers place a warning label on its games. Hardcore gamers would still go for it. Those who are up to the challenge, want to test the game's addictive nature and prove that they are not easily addicted would still jump on board. After all, the games being developed nowadays are meant to be addictive and this is done by presenting challenges that would keep players coming back.
The downside is, with the competitive environment in the game development industry, if one of the best games of 2015 suffers because of such a case, it may cause a domino effect in the industry. After all, how can one objectively consider the addictive nature of a game when every player's experience coming into the game and leaving it is different? Do game developers have to make a team of Psychologists assess each and every part of its games first before being cleared for release?
Perhaps the Russian man is one of the 471,955 who played the game on Nov. 15. If he wins the case, does it make his one case outweigh the gaming experience of the other 471,954 players or would, say, 100,000 more gamers pop up and sue the developer claiming the same thing? If so, what kind of action would Bethesda make and how would it affect the entire gaming industry? What comes to mind is that many developers would play it safe and the likelihood of achieving a fulfilling gaming experience for succeeding releases would drop.
Games and a player's addiction to it really should be taken on a case-to-case basis. As for the case of the Fallout 4 addicted Russian man, we'll all have to wait for the court's ruling.
A point to consider: The McDonald's Hot Coffee case
Stella Liebeck, a 79-year old, sued McDonalds in 1992 when she suffered 3rd-degree burns after hot coffee spilled on her lap and the court sided with her and order McDonald's to pay her roughly $3 Million. It sounds absurd with just that information since, well, it is common sense that hot coffee is supposed to be hot and she just got what she paid for. What people don't know is that the usual home brewed pot of coffee rests at 135 to 140°F but McDonald's required its chains to keep its coffee at 185°F in spite of being aware that such a temperature is harmful and even after 700 cases of scalding hot coffee-related injuries filed against them. Also, it refused to change the required temperature even after those cases.
Yes, Mrs. Liebeck was partially at fault but McDonald's was also responsible. The end result was the settlement plus that "Caution: Hot" label on McDonald's coffee cups.
Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said of the Russian man versus Bethesda case, for now.