Fortnite makers grilled by MPs over game safety

By Chris Baraniuk
Technology reporter

  • Published
Representatives of Epic Games and Electronic Arts at the DCMS committee hearingImage source, PARLIAMENT.TV
Image caption,
Video game industry representatives faced tough questions from MPs

The makers of Fortnite, one of the most popular video games ever, have been quizzed by MPs over what measures are taken to protect players of the game.

Epic Games representatives were asked how it ensured users did not spend too much time or money on the game.

Legal counsel Canon Pence said this was not something the company currently tracked.

This was "extraordinary", said Damian Collins, who chairs the Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee.

"You're the one who has responsibility," he said.

The committee hearing was called to examine immersive and addictive technologies.

Among the concerns raised by MPs were whether Epic Games did enough to verify the age of players or encourage users to take breaks after long periods of gameplay.

Executives from Electronic Arts (EA), which makes the hugely popular football game series Fifa, were asked similar questions.

In April, the Duke of Sussex called for Fortnite to be banned, saying the game had been "created to addict".

And on Wednesday, Mr Pence said Epic Games staff had been "quite taken aback" by Prince Harry's comment.

Image source, PARLIAMENT.TV
Image caption,
Epic Games's legal counsel said he did not think Fortnite players needed to verify their age separately in-game

When Mr Collins asked the Epic Games representatives whether they collected detailed information on how much time players spent playing Fortnite, he was told such data was not gathered.

"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," said Mr Collins in response.

Another MP, Simon Hart, asked whether Epic Games made any effort to measure the impact of screen time on players.

"Not that I'm aware of," replied marketing director Matt Weissinger, who later added: "I believe our preference is to provide the tools where parents can monitor play time."

Age verification absent

MP Ian Lucas said he was "surprised" to hear that Epic Games did not ask players to verify their age when installing Fortnite, which has an age rating of 12 years old and up.

Other MPs cited the World Health Organization's decision last year to classify gaming addiction as a disorder.

"We don't think our game is addictive," said Mr Weissinger.

But Mr Hart expressed concern when told that Epic Games had not commissioned any research into finding out whether Fortnite players were indeed developing compulsive playing habits.

Speaking for EA, executive Kerry Hopkins said her company asked players to self-confirm their date of birth but she acknowledged that some companies in the gaming industry were uncomfortable with collecting that personal data, for data-protection compliance reasons.