While product liability suits don’t generally get a lot of respect, litigation is often an effective way to pressure manufacturers to make their products safer for consumers. In my last post I was wondering what the game forums would have to say about the lawsuit recently filed by John Ryan McLaughlin, a former F-18 pilot who has permanently lost his flight status as a result of a seizure he experienced while playing Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls IV.
A thick skin is required just to lurk on these forums because the level of hostility can be so high when posters comment on a perceived threat to a game or game company. Some of these game forums are populated by folks paid to post comments supportive of the company/industry, but I suspect most of the people who post their disdain for those with photosensitive epilepsy are just—how should I say this—lacking in social graces and emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet. As expected, talk of McLaughlin’s legal action quickly brought out contemptuous and often ill-informed postings.
Here are a few examples of what I found in the forums, somewhat sanitized. Most are plug-and-play responses that have been trotted out already in other discussions about video games provoking seizures:
- The pilot should be grateful to the game for exposing a hidden condition he didn’t know he had. Especially since the consequences would likely be quite dire if a seizure had happened in the cockpit.
- It’s probably a coincidence that the seizure happened while he was playing.
- The poster has epilepsy and has never had a game seizure. So obviously there’s something fishy about the story.
- If the game hadn’t triggered a seizure, something else would have.
- Maybe his sensitivity to all that screen flashing developed from all the years of flying F-18s, and the video game just triggered a seizure. (This one is my personal favorite.)
A former Navy pilot permanently lost his flight status after experiencing a seizure while playing the game Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls IV on a Sony Playstation 3. John Ryan McLaughlin, an F-18 pilot based in San Diego, also broke a bone in the incident. McLaughlin has filed suit against the game manufacturer, Bethesda Softworks, and Zenimax Media, its corporate parent, as well as Sony. Read the story here.
Note that pilots are very, very carefully screened for possible seizure disorders–using photic stimulation, which really can’t replicate the visual experience of a video game. I have to wonder how the game forums will respond to this…usually these commenters love to blame the parents of children who have video game seizures, claiming everyone should have anticipated it would happen. This very sobering case involves someone highly trained to defend our country, who’s been tested up and down to detect even the hint of a seizure problem, who now can’t use his flight training anymore. Ever. Are the game forums going to blame a guy who’s been certified seizure-free for not paying attention to a warning in the game’s user manual? Or maybe find his parents responsible?
Read more about lawsuits filed by consumers who experienced seizures from video games.