Video Game Tort: You Made Me Play You

A federal judge in Hawaii ruled last month that a man claiming to be addicted to a videogame can sue the game’s maker for gross negligence in not warning him he could become a joystick junkie. Craig Smallwood alleges in his lawsuit that, as a result of playing the online game “Lineage II,” he has “suffered extreme and serious emotional distress and depression, and has been unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing, or communicating with family and friends.”

Mr. Smallwood did not specify how this differs from the condition of the average videogame aficionado.

Silly as the suit may be, it isn’t without legal ramifications. Steven Roosa, a lawyer doing research at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy, sounded almost giddy this week at the prospect that a court might chip away at the enforceability of End User License Agreements, or EULAs. These software license agreements often radically limit how, and for how much, customers can sue if they feel harmed by an electronic product.

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