World of Warcraft target of latest suit from PSN plaintiff
San Jose man adds Activision Blizzard to growing list of courtroom opponents, takes issue with MMOG fees, alleges ill effects on mental health, seeks $1 million.
After being banned from Sony's PlayStation Network during a game of Resistance: Fall of Man, a San Jose, California gamer sued the electronics giant, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights. That case was dismissed in September, but the plaintiff was undeterred. In addition to filing in an appeal in that case, earlier this month he filed a new suit against Microsoft and Nintendo. In that case, he alleged that a broken Xbox 360 caused him undue stress, and that a Wii system update blocking access to the Homebrew Channel third-party program interfered with his inalienable right to pursue happiness.
With the big-three platform holders accounted for, the same plaintiff is now turning his attention to largest third-party publisher. The gamer, Erik Estavillo, provided GameSpot with copies of his latest civil suit, a case against Activision Blizzard filed this morning in the Santa Clara County Superior Court of California. A court clerk confirmed for GameSpot that the suit had been filed.
The suit comprises a handful of complaints against Activision Blizzard, specifically relating to the company's successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft. Specifically, the gamer accuses the publisher of maintaining a "harmful virtual environment" with "sneaky and deceitful practices."
He first takes exception to the game's $14.99 monthly subscription fee, calling it the highest of any MMORPG. He contends the fee is aggravated by the game requiring players to travel great distances at a slow walking or running pace, with fast travel options like teleportation stones and mounts only available to gamers who rise to an advanced level or purchase the game's expansion packs.
He also cited the game's resurrection process, in which players travel in spirit from cemeteries back to the spots where they died in order to revive themselves, as an unnecessary part of the game designed to cost gamers money. Other fees at issue include the charges (up to $25) Blizzard levies to change their characters' names, races, factions, or servers.
Beyond the monetary complaints, the suit also references the 2001 suicide of an EverQuest player, attributing it to a sense of alienation related to the game and mental health problems. The suit goes on to say the plaintiff has suffered from similar problems, including major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and Crohn's disease, and he "doesn't want to end up like [the EverQuest player] did as he relies on video games heavily for the little ongoing happiness he can achieve in this life, via the gaming medium."
In addition to the suit, the plaintiff also wants a pair of celebrities to attest to the effects of alienation. The gamer is subpoenaing Depeche Mode's Martin Lee Gore "since he himself has been known to be sad, lonely, and alienated, as can be seen in the songs he writes." He is also calling Winona Ryder to testify, saying the actress' appreciation for Catcher in the Rye will make her a relevant witness "to how alienation in the book can tie to alienation in real live [sic]/video games such as World of Warcraft."
The gamer is asking for $1 million in punitive damages and a court order forcing Activision Blizzard to address the problems alleged in the suit. As of press time, representatives with Activision and Blizzard had not returned GameSpot's requests for comment.
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