Bethesda’s Fallout 4 has made a lot of headlines this year, but you may not have heard that it’s “so addictive” that it can ruin your life.
That’s the argument of an unnamed 28-year-old Russian man, according to a report from Forbes. The man, who claims that he lost his wife, his job and his friends due to Fallout 4‘s “addictive” gameplay, is suing the American developer for 500,000 rubles in damages (about $7,000 USD; at least he hasn’t heard about what we usually sue for over here).
“If I knew that [Fallout 4] could have become so addictive, I would have become a lot more wary of it. I would not have bought it, or I would have left it until I was on holiday or until the New Year holidays.”
According to his statement, in the three weeks after the game released, he was so addicted to Fallout 4 that he skipped work to play it, leading to his firing, ignoring his friends and his wife until she left him.
The case is apparently unprecedented for Russian courts, and it’s hard to know what they will do with it; likely, given the millions of people able to play the game and carry on with their lives – Fallout 4 sold 1.2 million copies within 24 hours of release alone – the case will be dismissed out of hand. That said, such cases have been heard elsewhere in the world before with some degree of success; as Forbes notes, Hawaiian man Craig Smallwood sued Lineage II publisher NCSoft in a similar case, and was awarded legal fees.
That all having been said, while video game addiction is not a formally recognized condition, the idea has been gaining traction for several years now, and as WebMD notes, addiction experts admit that the condition makes medical sense. Kimberly Young, PsyD, director of the Center for On-Line Addiction and author of Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction — and a Winning Strategy for Recovery points out that a hypothetical game addiction would be no different than other impulse-control disorders, exactly the same as a gambling addiction.
“I’ve had so many parents call me over the last year or two, particularly about the role-playing games online. I see it getting worse as the opportunity to game grows – for example, cell phone gaming.”
“It’s a clinical impulse control disorder.”
Now, can Bethesda be successfully sued for that? It’s a lot harder to say. Many purveyors of addictive substances and services are forced by various governments to publish warnings; cigarettes require warning labels, some gambling proceeds are used to fund gambling addiction awareness campaigns, alcohol servers in many areas are not allowed to let patrons become intoxicated.
Perhaps not in Russia, but it’s likely that as more of these cases go to court – and justified or not, they will – video game distributors will face similar pressure to print warnings on their products or fund public awareness campaigns.
As unlikely as it is, if this case does go anywhere, it’s likely that Bethesda will settle out of court; $7,000 is small change to many individuals, never mind a major company.
Meanwhile, as Forbes points out, there is a darker side to gaming and addiction – but it’s not really something you’ll see in Fallout 4; the titles that are truly ruining lives are actually a lot less complicated than that: primarily, they’re deceptively “casual” titles intended to rope their players into constant play and paying truly unbelievable sums of money to no good purpose.
And let’s be honest; maybe that kind of game needs a warning attached to it. Fallout 4? Not so much.
[Image via Bethesda Softworks]