Can a video game publisher be successfully sued for releasing a game that makes players want to play it compulsively? That's the question of the hour in the USA, as Lineage II player Craig Smallwood levied a $3 million negligence suit against NCsoft for making the game too addictive. Smallwood found himself playing the MMO for over 20,000 hours in the last five years, to the point where he is unable to function normally in real life -- and he claims it's NCsoft's fault for not warning him in advance. Smallwood's gameplay averaged around 11 hours per day during that period.
Surprisingly, a federal judge has allowed the suit to proceed against the South Korean publisher, stating that "the court finds that plaintiff has stated a claim for both negligence and gross negligence." NCsoft has appealed and asked the judge to dismiss the case. The situation gets more interesting when you consider that Smallwood had his Lineage II accounts banned for alleged grey market RMT activity, although he claims that was a ploy by NCsoft to force players like himself to move over to Aion.
Video game addiction is no new issue, to be sure, but it's interesting that this case seeks to shift the blame from the player to the game company itself. This raises a whole host of new questions. Should publishers be required to slap their products with warning labels? Is there no personal responsibility when it comes to playing MMORPGs? We will have to wait and see if Smallwood's suit succeeds, and what, if any, fallout may occur from the attempt.