A committee formed by the United Kingdom’s MPs has been asking Epic Games’ representatives a few questions about Fortnite.
They asked Fortnite’s representatives if they ensured users did not spend either too much time or money in the game. Canon Pence, a legal counsel, thinks the company doesn’t keep track of such things. Damian Collins, the chairman of the Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee, says the situation is extraordinary, and that the responsibility lies on Epic Games’ shoulders.
The committee hearing was called to examine technologies related to immersion and addiction. Their concerns included the fact that Epic Games didn’t verify the players’ age, plus they didn’t warn them about spending too much time playing Fortnite without taking a break. Collins asked Epic Games’ representatives whether the collect information about the players’ time spent in Fortnite – after getting a negative response, he said the following: „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.”
Simon Hart, a member of the committee asked if Epic Games made any effort to measure the impact on the players based on their screen time. „Not that I’m aware of. I believe our preference is to provide the tools where parents can monitor play time. We don’t think our game is addictive,” replied marketing director Matt Weissinger. Hart expressed his concern for not conducting research about Fortnite potentially causing addiction. Ian Lucas, another minister, was surprised about how Fortnite doesn’t verify players’ age, even though the game has an age rating of 12 years and up.
Electronic Arts’ representatives also got the same treatment – they, for example, are responsible for the FIFA series, which is extremely popular in the United Kingdom – Kerry Hopkins, EA’s vice president of legal and government affairs (they indeed have such a position) said that players have to give their date of birth, but she admitted that other companies find such data collection for data protection compliance reasons uncomfortable.
Back in April, the Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry) asked Fortnite to be banned, as he thinks the game is made to cause addiction. This comment surprised Pence (in fact, he was taken aback), as he didn’t find words to say. Neither can we if Epic Games don’t seem to care about addiction (which, according to the World Health Organization, is a recognized illness…), or about tracking players’ time spent in Fortnite.