'Were you coached?': Fortnite game creator's comms attacked by MPs and addiction campaigners

Epic Games, developer of the hit game Fortnite, has been condemned for its handling of a high-profile select committee hearing in Parliament.

Fortnite is one of the world's most popular video games and has more than 250 million registered users (Credit: Wachirawit Iemlerkchai/Alamy)
Fortnite is one of the world's most popular video games and has more than 250 million registered users (Credit: Wachirawit Iemlerkchai/Alamy)

Concerns over the addictive nature of the game are currently being addressed by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, as part of its wider inquiry into immersive and addictive technologies.

Royal dissent

And in April this year Prince Harry called for Fortnite to be banned, claiming it had been "created to addict" and "shouldn't be allowed".

The game, which has more than 250 million registered users worldwide, has been linked with cases where young people around the world have reportedly become addicted to playing it.

Company claims

Nonetheless, during an appearance before the select committee last week Matthew Weissinger, marketing director at Epic Games, insisted: "We do not think our game is addictive."

He added: "I think the use of 'addiction' unfortunately masks the passion that our players have and the joy that they get from playing our game. Personally, I think it is a mischaracterisation of a term like 'addiction'."

Unimpressed

His performance, under pressure from MPs, did not impress committee member Clive Efford, who told Weissinger and Canon Pence, Epic Games' general counsel, who he appeared alongside: "I found your answers very evasive."

Efford asked: "Were you coached before you came here on how to answer questions?"

Weissinger and Pence denied having been coached, although Pence subsequently admitted: "After our prep call with your Committee, we did seek English counsel advice."

'Staggeringly ignorant'

Commenting on last week’s hearing, Eytan Alexander, managing director of private healthcare firm UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT), said the committee "raised some incredibly important topics with the witnesses to which we heard, quite frankly, staggeringly ignorant responses".

He remarked: "We appreciate that those who create games like Fortnite are not going to create a game that is not a joy to play. We also appreciate that playing Fortnite for the majority does not lead to the development of overuse and addiction."

In denial

But Alexander continued: "What we don’t appreciate is the complete lack of acceptance that the amazing game they have now created can be and is already problematic to some vulnerable users. All we heard from Fortnite’s creators is that there’s no issue, when in fact, for some, gaming addiction is a very real issue."

He added: "It was unnerving to hear that there are no systems in place to protect users, yet sophisticated, automated systems in place to 'pull players back in'."

Epic Games had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.


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