A federal judge is allowing a negligence lawsuit to proceed against the publisher of the online virtual-world game Lineage II, amid allegations that a Hawaii man became so addicted he is “unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing or communicating with family and friends.” Craig Smallwood, the plaintiff, claims NCsoft of South Korea should pay unspecified monetary damages because of the addictive nature of the game. Smallwood claims to have played Lineage II for 20,000 hours between 2004 and 2009. Among other things, he alleges he would not have begun playing if he was aware “that he would become addicted to the game.” Smallwood, who did not immediately respond for comment, alleged that the company “acted negligently in failing to warn or instruct or adequately warn or instruct plaintiff and other players of Lineage II of its dangerous and defective characteristics, and of the safe and proper method of using the game.” Released in 2003 as a sequel to the original Lineage game, which was a national phenomenon in South Korea, Lineage II is an immersion 3-D MMORPG that gained a reported 600,000 users within a few years, and is still being regularly expanded and updated six years later — all the better to turn more vulnerable Americans into bleary-eyed shut-ins. U.S. District Judge Alan Kay refused to dismiss parts of Smallwood’s complaint this month, possibly clearing the way for a trial. ”In light of plaintiff’s allegations, the court finds that plaintiff has stated a claim for both negligence and gross negligence,” Kay ruled (.pdf). An attorney for the company was not immediately prepared to comment on Kay’s August 4 decision. But in a Tuesday court filing, NCsoft again urged the judge to dismiss the case.—
We’ll continue to monitor the case and keep you posted.