At least 200 couples in the United Kingdom filed for divorce in 2018 while citing addiction to online survival game “Fortnite” and other online games as one of the reasons for their parting of ways, according to Divorce Online, a U.K. company that offers divorce services and resources.
There are more than 125 million registered “Fortnite” players around the world and the game has pulled in over $1 billion in revenue since launching in 2017, according to game developer Epic Games. But apparently there’s a growing number of people who may wish they’d spent a little bit less time playing.
A recent blog post on Divorce Online’s site notes that the company decided to compile all of the divorce petitions that mentioned addiction to “Fortnite” and other online games after noticing an uptick in the number of couples who cited the game when inquiring about divorce services.
The 200 U.K. couples who cited “Fortnite” and other online games when they filed divorce petitions still only represented a small fraction of the total number of divorce proceedings this year, the company said. “These numbers equate to roughly 5% of the 4,665 petitions we have handled since the beginning of the year and as one of the largest filers of divorce petitions in the UK, is a pretty good indicator,” a spokesperson for Divorce Online wrote in a statement.
The spokesperson also wrote that “addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling have often been cited as reasons for relationship breakdowns but the dawn of the digital revolution has introduced new addictions.”
In June, the World Health Organization officially recognized “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition afflicting gamers who are lacking in control over their own gaming habits for periods of months at a time. In these cases, the WHO says, there is “increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
The gaming disorder can have negative effects on players’ physical and psychological health, including damaged eyesight and sleep deprivation. An NSPCC report in May claimed that Fortnite and other Battle Royale titles, like PUBG, could expose children to violent behavior by inspiring them to kill people to progress in the game.
The disorder can have negative effects on a person’s relationships and career, the WHO adds.
Roughly one-third of “Fortnite” players average between six and 10 hours of playing the game per week, according to an August survey from financial education site LendEDU. That’s about average for video games overall (6.5 hours per week, according to another survey), but more than 38 percent of respondents told LendEDU that they play “Fortnite” more than 11 hours per week.
If such a large chunk of “Fortnite” players are playing the game more than the average video game, then perhaps it makes sense that it could become an issue for some couples. A 2013 Brigham Young University study found that 72 percent of non-gaming spouses felt their spouse’s gaming had a negative effect on their relationship.
Digital Addiction Can Lead To Divorce
Of course, it’s not just gaming too much that can lead to divorce. Social media is regularly cited as a reason a couple files for divorce.
According to a survey by the UK’s DivorceOnline, Facebook was implicated in a third of all divorce filings in a recent year. Moreover, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys have witnessed a rise in the number of divorces linked to social networking. A study published in July 2014 in the journal, Computers in Human Behavior, revealed that the use of social networking sites “is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce.”
Many research studies are referring to “internet infidelity” and “virtual adultery” as a national epidemic. Apparently, the anonymity associated with electronic communication allows users to feel more open and free in talking with other users. This anonymity and attention makes the “virtual affair” fun, easy, increasingly appealing and accessible.
In the 2013 case of Lackey & Mae the Judge referred to social media as being used “as a weapon” and that “… parties (and lawyers) readily and regularly explore for (invariably incriminating) ‘evidence’ to be used in litigation”. There are now many cases in the Family Courts where social media posts are used as evidence.