A Navy pilot says that he can no longer fly thanks to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Former F-18 pilot John Ryan McLaughlin recently lost his flight status and he says that Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls IV is to blame. The Navy stripped McLaughlin of his credentials after a grand mal seizure resulted in excruciating pain and a broken bone, but he happened to be playing the RPG on his PS3 when the seizure occurred in March 2010 so he’s now suing Bethesda, Sony, and Zenimax (Bethesda’s parent company) for altering his career.
In the lawsuit (filed in California), McLaughlin essentially says that Bethesda, Sony, and Zenimax created a game that was designed to induce seizures with strobe-light effects and then knowingly distributed a product that was scientifically and demonstrably defective.
“The product was so designed that it exceeded the upper acceptable limit of more than 3 flashes over a 1 second period, as well as acceptable spatial pattern and luminance flash limits,” reads the lawsuit. “These risks were not made known to the plaintiff and/or an ordinary consumer prior to the time of purchase."
McLaughlin goes on to claim that Bethesda failed to warn customers about the defective nature of their product, which entitles him to punitive reparations and damages stemming from negligence, breach of warranty, and product liability.
"The defective and dangerous condition of the product, and that it was unsafe for the use and purpose for which it was intended when used by certain consumers as recommended, was expected and reasonably anticipated by the defendants, and each of them, or in the exercise of ordinary and reasonable care should have been known and discovered by defendants, and each of them.”
Of course, every game and game-related product now comes with an explicit and unambiguous warning label to defuse exactly this kind of lawsuit, so McLaughlin may find it difficult to convince the court that he was truly unaware of the medial risks. He may have thought that it would never happen to him – and let’s be honest, no gamer ever seriously expects this stuff to happen – but you can’t claim that you weren’t warned just because you ignored the warning.
Besides, millions of people have already enjoyed Oblivion without incident, and one seizure does not necessarily make an entire shipment of video games defective. McLaughlin’s problems are unfortunate – and this would be a different story if more people reported issues – but it sets a troublesome precedent if game developers are liable for every outlying medical situation.