Video Game Addiction Causes and Lawsuits

Holding Developers Accountable for Designing Purposefully Addicting Games

Video gaming has exploded in popularity ever since the home video game console was developed and begging your mom to drive you to the arcade became a thing of the past. Now, you could sit in your room and play until your heart was content. Unfortunately, video game developers have found more and more ways to get you to play longer and longer. Leading to a new problem that is only now breaching the surface: video game addiction. With the invention of in-game purchases, developers became even more inclined to get kids addicted: good old dollar bills.

Video game addiction and the ramifications it is having on young people have led to a new legal frontier where parents are demanding justice and bringing lawsuits against video game developers to court.

Video Game Addiction Causes and Lawsuits Table Of Contents

teen boy wearing headphone plays a video game in the dark, photo taken from rear creating a silhouette

Video Game Developers Face Lawsuits Over Product Liability

The lawsuit alleges that certain video game companies are playing a deliberate role in getting kids and teens addicted to gaming for the purpose of profits. The plaintiffs are claiming that these companies created and sold games that were meant to be addictive, and they especially wanted to hook young players.

The lawsuit claims that new video games have a stronger focus on player rewards, feedback loops, and the small purchases players can make inside the games. They claim that these microtransactions get teen's brains hooked in a way that goes beyond just wanting to play and more into the realm of "having" to play.

One child, referred to as DG, has faced real hardships, including emotional distress, diminished social interactions, loss of friends, and a range of disorders, including depression, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), a type of behavior disorder that causes children to become uncooperative, defiant, and hostile toward peers, parents, and authority figures in a way that goes beyond "spoiled" and into diagnosable psychological problems.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of exploiting consumers through unfair, unconscionable, and deceptive trade practices, prioritizing profit over safety. It claims that these actions have caused not only specific harm to DG and Jaclyn Angelilli but also broader societal harm.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensation and punitive damages for what they claim is negligent, fraudulent, and reckless behavior on the part of the video game developers and their parent companies. In addition to compensation for their own damages, the lawsuit argues that such punitive measures are necessary to address and deter such conduct industry-wide.

The Dark Side of Video Games and Gaming Disorder

Video game addiction, or “gaming disorder,” was recently recognized by the World Health Organization as part of its International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, revealing a level of seriousness most people are not aware of.

According to the Pew Research Center, 97 percent of teen boys and 83 percent of girls play games on some kind of device. Many kids, mostly boys, play video games for hours and hours if left uninterrupted. This kind of play can lead to:

  • Social isolation: Not trying to find friends or hang out with the ones you have, not partaking in family time, and cutting out real-world activities.
  • Academic decline: Struggling with schoolwork and declining grades is common with gaming disorder. Schoolwork just doesn't seem as important when, as soon as they get home, they can immediately immerse themselves back into that addicting world.
  • Mental health issues: Teens playing video games for a long period of time can develop anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. Some of this is caused by social isolation and worrying about school, but it can also be caused by much more psychological factors, like not understanding the juxtaposition between your online persona and your real-world self and how to handle that. And that is just one example. The teen mind is not made for constant, never-ending stimulation, rewards, and intense imagery and light.
  • Financial strain: One of the ways that video games have become so addicting, as we will discuss in more depth below, is the addition of in-game purchases, like microtransactions and loot boxes. Most parents have probably never even heard these words, yet they are at the forefront of your teenager's mind nearly all day if they are suffering from gaming disorder.
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Game Developers Are Designing for Addiction

Parents of children struggling with video game addiction, or gaming disorder, are starting to consider their legal options when it comes to their child’s situation and all the damages it has caused. These lawsuits allege that game developers are deliberately designing games to be addictive to keep players hooked for long periods and encourage them to spend large amounts of money.

But can a video game development company really be held accountable for video game addiction or gaming disorder? And if so, why? The answer is in how the video game developer creates the addicting elements and in a completely purposeful way.

How Game Development Companies Create Addiction

Here is how game developers and game designers make it so that your child doesn't want to leave their room for dinner; they mentally cannot, or at the very least, find it very difficult. 

#1 They Function Like a Slot Machine

  • Variable rewards: Variable rewards are rewards that are always changing; therefore, they are not predictable in any way. Imagine a treasure chest that gives random goodies every time you open it. But they are spread out all around your neighborhood. That's kinda like loot boxes. You never know what cool gun, or special power, or hidden item you might get, which keeps players wanting to open more. It's like playing the lottery in the sense that a seemingly small investment (in this case, time) could have a big payoff (the sword nobody else has or the gun that looks the coolest). This surprise factor makes your brain release feel-good chemicals, like dopamine, making you want to keep playing.
  • Near misses: Slot machines are also designed to create something called a near miss. You need 5 pigs in a row, but instead, you get 4, and the 5th one just barely missed. You were so close! That is the same concept applied in a video game. You get that rush of "almost!" which makes the player think they definitely win next time. And if grown adults can’t stop this powerful mind game in casinos and thousands of other places in life, your twelve-year-old has no chance.

#2 Gotta Have It All

  • Microtransactions: Microtransactions are aptly named because they are tiny purchases you make inside the game, like buying extra lives or a cooler outfit for your character. Usually, they cost seemingly a small amount: a few rubies, for example. This concept has replaced the idea of waiting until you find everything or starting the whole game over because you lost. If you have a credit card (or your mom does), you can give it one more go or get that better item. Developers know you want that cool new sword or outfit, and they make it tempting to buy them to improve your character and to stand out to your friends (remember, most of these games are being played online, with real friends seeing what their character does and doesn't have). And as a final note, video game companies have found a way to make microtransactions 1000% more lucrative. Just like on TikTok or Candy Crush, real money is converted into a currency, but at an odd rate. So $20 is 1100 rubies. It makes it almost impossible to tell that 55 rubies is $1. So when your teenager goes to buy that outfit that is 300 coins, it’s almost impossible to tell that, really, that digital hoodie cost nearly $5.50.
  • Loot boxes: These are again like surprise treasure chests, but you often have to use real money or in-game currency earned over a long time to open them. They are kind of like a package deal (again, making it impossible to tell what each thing costs), and they might contain cool stuff to help you advance or look awesome, but it's a gamble because you never know what you'll get. You can buy these loot boxes in intervals ranging from small to huge, $5 to $500. And when you open them, you have no idea the value of anything, but your character looks cooler. 

Friendship and Competition

  • Social features: Most of the video games teens are playing today are either completely online games or they are regular video games but have an online feature, which is often really popular. These games let you team up with friends or compete against them, all the while talking in real-time through a headset or chatting with a keyboard. This can make the game a lot of fun and make a kid feel like they’re part of a group, which is normally good. But this social element of the game can make it hard for a player to quit because they don't want to let their friends down or miss out on the fun. FOMO is real.

These lawsuits have focused on these very real and deliberate elements of the game that keep kids addicted. Additionally, they are targeting specific genres like multiplayer online games (MMOs) and games heavily reliant on loot boxes, which can easily be compared to a form of gambling, something that happens to be illegal for minors.

young girl playing game on tablet - Video Game Addiction Lawsuits - Lawsuit Legal News

Video Game Addictions Seem Oddly Similar to Social Media Addiction

These allegations against the companies that develop video games with intentionally addictive elements bring to mind similar allegations currently being made against social media companies. Social platforms like Meta, Google, TikTok, and others are also facing lawsuits over claims that these companies have designed their social platforms to be addictive.

The social media lawsuits being filed across the country claim that social media platforms have deliberately built-in mechanisms that make their apps addicting, with some even being equated to casino-like tactics.

Social media addictions, just like video game addictions, have been blamed for horrible issues affecting mostly pre-teens and teens. This includes anxiety, depression, isolation, eating disorders, and emotional damage. In some cases, the addictive nature of social media and the isolation it creates have caused tweens and teens to practice self-mutilation, attempt suicide, and sometimes commit actual suicide.

And far too many of these cases, the parents had or have no idea that any of this was going on. In the case of social media, a parent can think their child has one Instagram account, and they are careful to closely monitor it. 

But in reality, their teen—who is much better with technology—has multiple other IG accounts, a Twitter, Tumblr, three Snapchat accounts, and TikTok. This same concept can be applied to video games in the sense that parents are rarely watching every second of gameplay and/or the chat or conversation that is being had.

Most of the major social media platforms, including Meta (Facebook, Instagram), Bytedance (TikTok), and Snap (Snapchat), have been accused of ignoring clear evidence about the harmful consequences of their development tactics, indicating that they have refused to do anything to prevent the addiction and emotional distress since it would directly impact their profits.

The more a company maximizes user time and engagement, the more money it ultimately makes. And these two worlds are colliding more than you might think.

What Are Video Game Developers Being Accused Of?

Lawyers who are filing lawsuits against video game developers are centering their claims around three main legal concepts:

  • Defective Design: This legal claim alleges that video games lack safeguards to prevent excessive play or addiction. They are basically claiming that the games are defective because their design is inherently harmful.
  • Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices: This argument focuses on marketing tactics that mass tort lawyers believe target vulnerable populations, particularly children and teenagers. Deceptive advertising or failing to disclose the potential for addiction could fall under this category.
  • Negligence: With negligence, the claim is that developers have a responsibility to warn players about the potential risks of addiction, similar to how cigarette companies are required to warn consumers about the health risks of smoking. Likewise, they should have elements in their game systems that help young people not to play for too long or spend a certain amount of money.
  • Failure to Warn: These claims are used when a company does not adequately inform consumers about the potential risks or addictive nature of their products. In the context of video game addiction lawsuits, this would involve the argument that the game developers failed to provide adequate warnings to parents and teens about the risk of developing an addiction.
  • Failure to Instruct: This legal term refers to a company's neglect to provide sufficient instructions on the safe and proper use of their product. For example, game developers did not offer instruction to parents or players to help them manage their time or behaviors to avoid addiction.
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: This claim alleges that the video development companies' conduct was so serious and outrageous that it intentionally or recklessly caused severe emotional distress to the plaintiff through addiction and significant mental, emotional, or physical distress.
  • Fraudulent Misrepresentation: Fraudulent misrepresentation claims that the game companies falsely represented their products in a way that misled parents and teens about the addictive nature or potential harms of playing their games for long periods. This includes misleading marketing, such as promoting the game as suitable for all ages, or not revealing that things like microtransactions are a big part of the game play.

Which Video Game Developers Are Being Sued?


The first video game lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, by Jaclyn Angelilli on behalf of herself and her minor child, which the lawsuit calls D.G. They are demanding a jury trial against a long list of defendants in the gaming industry.

Here is a list of the video game companies and some of their most famous games or franchises:

  • Activision Blizzard, Inc: World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo series, Call of Duty series
  • Infinity Ward, Inc: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series
  • Treyarch Corp: Call of Duty: Black Ops series
  • Sledgehammer Games, Inc: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Call of Duty: WWII
  • Raven Software Corporation: Contributed to the Call of Duty series, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
  • Microsoft Corporation: Halo series, Forza Motorsport series, Gears of War series (through Xbox Game Studios)
  • Epic Games Inc: Fortnite, Unreal series, Gears of War
  • Roblox Corporation: Roblox
  • Grove Street Games: Ports of Grand Theft Auto series for mobile platforms
  • Rockstar North Limited: Grand Theft Auto series, including GTA V, Red Dead Redemption series (as a part of Rockstar Games)
  • Rockstar Games, Inc: Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption series
  • Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc: The parent company of Rockstar Games and 2K Games, known for the Grand Theft Auto series, the Red Dead Redemption series, the NBA 2K series, and the Borderlands series
  • Sony Interactive Entertainment, LLC: The Last of Us series, Uncharted series, God of War series, Spider-Man (through PlayStation Studios)
  • Nintendo Of America, Inc: Super Mario series, The Legend of Zelda series, Pokémon series
  • Google, LLC: Google produces lesser-known games for mobile devices, but they still make a ton of money.
  • Apple, Inc: Not traditionally known as a game developer, but operates the Apple Arcade subscription service, which features exclusive games like Fantasian and Sayonara Wild Hearts. Apple itself doesn't develop these games but offers a platform for developers.

Challenges for Video Game Addiction Lawsuits

Despite the growing number of video game addiction lawsuits, successfully holding video game developers accountable will not be easy. Here are some of the legal hurdles the plaintiffs could face:

  • Proving Causation: proving without a doubt that a specific game caused a player's addiction
  • First Amendment Concerns: artistic expressions like video games are protected by the First Amendment
  • Lack of Precedent: there are no existing legal principles that apply to this brand new issue

How to Help Manage Your Child’s Screentime

Here are some ways in which you can help manage your child’s screen time and video game use.

  1. Get involved and play the game with your child.
  2. Make sure you are thoroughly checking on what type of game you are buying and its contents. 
  3. Educate yourself on how these games work and what the common terms are.
  4. Set definitive restrictions and stick to them.
  5. Use the parental controls present in the gaming consoles.
  6. Encourage time outside, face-to-face time with friends and family, activities, and hobbies.
  7. Don't be afraid to say No when you need to.

Who is Eligible for a Video Game Addiction Lawsuit?

The criteria for a video game addiction lawsuit obviously varies. But in general, the criter for the case are as follows:

  • Age 16 and younger
  • Must play for multiple hours a day for a long period of time
  • Played one of the following games (usually the newer versions):
    • Call of Duty
    • Modern Warfare
    • Grand Theft Auto
    • Fortnite
    • Battlefield 2042
    • Rainbow 6
    • Siege
    • Roblox
    • Minecraft
    • NBA2K
    • Madden
  • Played on one of the following gaming platforms:
    • Game Pass UltimateGame Pass CoreXbox Live GoldPlayStation Premium PlayStation ExtraPlayStation EssentialEA PlayEA Play ProApple ArcadeGoogle Play PassNVIDIA GeForce NOWAmazon Luna
    • Ubisoft Connect
  • Has real and documentable symptoms, like:
    • Diminished Social Interaction with Family
    • Loss or Lack of Friends at School
    • Drop in Grades
    • Dropped out of HS/College to play games
    • Lack of Interest in other sports/hobbies
    • Inability to limit game playing time
    • Poor Hygiene due to game-playing time
    • Change in eating pattern due to game playing time
    • "Gamer’s Rage" which results in anger-throwing objects, punching walls/doors, yelling, cursing, etc., when losing or having to stop playing
  • Has received one of the following diagnoses:
    • Gamer’s Thumb
    • Video Gaming Addiction
    • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • Internet Gaming Disorder
  • Has received one of the following treatments:
    • IEP school
    • Cognitive Behavior Therapy
    • Medications
    • Out-Patient Counseling
    • In-Patient Counseling

And, of course, there are many other criteria, like whether or not gaming disorder caused the teen to drop out of high school, what age the player started playing, how the teen got the game (for example, some laptops came with a free 3-month subscription for X Box Game Pass or EA), and many other factors which could be taken into account.

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Are You Or Your Child Suffering From Video Game Addiction? 

Video game addiction lawsuits are complex legal matters. If you believe your child has suffered due to video game addiction, Lawsuit Legal News can connect you with our team of experienced mass tort attorneys who can evaluate your case and advise you on your legal options. 

We offer a free consultation that allows you to discuss your situation with a qualified lawyer to determine the best course of action and ask any questions.

Call us today at (866) 535-9515 or contact us online. Our mass tort lawyers have decades of experience handling these types of claims and the resources to take on giant companies. Let us help you and your family!

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