MPs Question Fortnite Makers Over Addiction Risks
Epic Games representatives were questioned as part of the DCMS committee’s investigation into immersive and addictive technologies.
The developers of popular battle royale game, Fortnite, have been questioned by MPs over the type of measures the firm has taken to protect players.
Representatives from Epic Games were questioned by MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee on how it prevents users from spending excessive amounts of time and money on the game.
Their appearance forms the latest part of the committee’s investigation into immersive and addictive technologies. Representatives from Electronic Arts (EA) were also questioned over their duty of care to players.
During the committee hearing, legal counsel Canon Pence explained that currently, the company did not track users’ activity in this regard.
Damian Collins MP, chair of the committee, said that it was “extraordinary” that Epic Games did not monitor user activity given the popularity of the title, insisting that the responsibility of user safety lay in the hands of the developers.
MPs raised concerns that Epic Games could be failing to encourage users to take breaks after extended periods of time on the game, and also questioned whether or not it does enough to verify the age of players.
Epic Games Marketing Director, Matt Weissinger, told the committee that he was unaware of any efforts at the firm to measure the extent – and the impact – of screen time on players.
“I believe our preference is to provide the tools where parents can monitor play time,” he said.
In response, Collins said: “I don’t believe that you don’t know this information, and to me, it arouses suspicion that this isn’t something you can discuss.”
Ian Lucas MP added that he was surprised to learn Epic Games does not ask players to verify their age. The title has an age rating of 12 years or older.
Following the WHO’s decision to classify gaming addiction as a legitimate disorder, MPs asked whether or not this had been taken into account by Fortnite’s developers.
Weissinger said the company does not believe the game is addictive, however, Simon Hart MP said he was shocked to learn that Epic Games had not commissioned any research into this subject.
In April this year, Prince Harry called for the game to be banned in the UK and claimed that the game had been specifically “created to addict” its users. Legal counsel Pence said Epic Games had been “quite taken aback” by these comments.