Tuesday, July 22, 2014         

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Video game firm sued over addiction

"Lineage II" leaves an Oahu man unable to wake, bathe and dress, a lawsuit alleges

By Gene Park


An Ewa Beach man is claiming he is unable to bathe, dress himself or wake up in the day due to alleged "phenomena of psychological dependence and addiction" to a video game created by a South Korean developer.

Craig Smallwood, 51, filed a lawsuit against developer NCSoft Corp. last October with several charges including emotional distress and misrepresentation.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Alan Kay granted NCSoft's motion to dismiss half of the eight charges, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

Smallwood, who did not return a call for comment yesterday, alleges that the 2003 release "Lineage II" caused "extreme and serious emotional distress and depression."

Smallwood, who says he is a disabled veteran, also alleges that he has been "unable to function independently in usually daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing or communicating with family and friends."

He claims to have been hospitalized for three weeks and that he now needs treatment and therapy three times a week because of the game.

In his Aug. 4 decision, Kay dismissed the charges of misrepresentation/deceit, unfair and deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages.

NCSoft still faces counts of defamation, negligence, gross negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

"Lineage II" is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game with a medieval fantasy setting. Smallwood claims he spent more than 20,000 hours playing the game from 2004 to 2009.

"NCSoft is discretionary and discriminatory in its applications of the rules," Smallwood said in his original October complaint. "Often they will allow certain players to break rules ... while they enforce these rules on others."

Smallwood asserts that he continues to this day to have a "compulsive urge and need" to play the game, that he never received any warning from the company about the danger of addiction and that he would not have bought and played the game if he would become addicted to it.

Local law firm Bronster & Hoshibata, which represents NCSoft in the case, said Smallwood "fails to properly allege facts that would support each element of the emotional distress claim. As such, Smallwood has failed to properly give notice to NCSoft of the claims levied against it."

NCSoft also claims that Smallwood was banned from his game accounts because of his involvement with real money transfers, which is forbidden by the user agreement and rules of conduct of the game.

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