Duke of Sussex wrong to label Fortnite addictive, say makers

Executives from developers Epic Games were answering MPs' questions about addictive technologies.

The makers of popular battle royale game Fortnite have suggested the Duke of Sussex was wrong to say the platform is addictive.

Speaking in April, Harry said the game was “created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible”.

Canon Pence, general counsel for Fortnite developers Epic Games, said the firm was surprised by the duke’s view and said that any implication the company set out to gain short-term profit was a “real mischaracterisation”.

Canon Pence
Canon Pence, general counsel for Fortnite developers Epic Games (PA)

“We were quite taken aback and really rather surprised because the statements that were made, in our view, couldn’t be further from the truth from our intentions and design philosophy and just our multi-decade approach to developing a long-term healthy and sustainable approach with our audience,” he told the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

“It’s really always been our effort and intent to create a fun, fair, flexible, engaging and generous form of interactive entertainment for our audience and so I feel like a statement that suggests that there was some sort of nefarious attempt to extract short-term profit is a real mischaracterisation.”

When asked by committee chairman Damian Collins whether Mr Pence thought the duke had got it wrong or had a lack of understanding about the game, he responded: “I do.”

Harry made his comments about Fortnite during a visit to the YMCA in South Ealing, west London, in which he discussed negative impacts on the mental health of young people.

“Social media is more addictive than drugs and alcohol, and it’s more dangerous because it’s normalised and there are no restrictions to it,” he said at the time.

Representatives from Electronic Arts (EA), who also appeared before the committee, were asked what they thought about the World Health Organisation’s decision to classify gaming disorder as a disease.

“I don’t think we can agree to say that games are addictive and I actually don’t believe the World Health Organisation decision to designate a gaming disorder uses the word ‘addiction’ or refers to games as being addictive,” said Kerry Hopkins, vice president for legal and government affairs at EA.

“What it doesn’t say is that games are inherently addictive, what it says is some people suffer from a disorder and the World Health Organisation put out a video and said what we’re not saying is that people who play a long time, play a lot of hours are addicted or have a disorder, they said it’s something a doctor would need to diagnose.

“They said it’s far more than playing a lot, so I think it’s a very new designation and one that the industry does have responsibility to follow and I think now that it is a designation, more medical practitioners, the scientific community will be weighing in on it and it’s something we do have to follow definitely.”

The committee has previously taken evidence from former gamers, one of whom admitted to notching up 32 hours of uninterrupted game play on one occasion without eating or sleeping.

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