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Subpoenas Target Rocker, Actress as Experts on Alienation

Martin Gore, a member of the brooding British electronic band Depeche Mode and the group's chief songwriter, once described the focus of his lyrics as "anything that appeals to really dysfunctional people." So if you happen to be the plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging that the defendant's product has caused you to suffer severe social alienation, who better to call as an expert witness on alienation than the selfsame Martin Gore?

I know what you're thinking: What about Winona Ryder?

Well, this particular plaintiff, Erik Estavillo, says he plans to subpoena both Gore and Ryder in his lawsuit against the company that produces the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, "World of Warcraft." Regular readers of this blog may remember Estavillo as the California agoraphobic who sued Sony on First Amendment grounds after it banned him from participating in multiplayer games on its PlayStation Network. In October, a federal judge threw out that case.

Now, Estavillo has turned his attention to the company that produces "Warcraft," Activision Blizzard, according to a report at GameSpot, which says it obtained a copy of Estavillo's complaint and confirmed that he had filed it in California's Santa Clara County Superior Court. The suit sets forth various complaints against Activision, among them that it maintains a "harmful virtual environment" and engages in "sneaky and deceitful practices."

A central thrust of Estavillo's lawsuit is his allegation that "World of Warcraft" causes players to become alienated and suffer mental health problems. He says that he suffers major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and Crohn's disease and does not want to end up like another game player who committed suicide in 2001, "as he relies on video games heavily for the little ongoing happiness he can achieve in this life."

Which brings us back to where we started in this post -- Estavillo's plans to subpoena Gore and Ryder as expert witnesses on alienation. He intends to subpoena Gore, he explains, because the rock star "himself has been known to be sad, lonely, and alienated, as can be seen in the songs he writes." As for actress Ryder, Estavillo says her appreciation for the novel "Catcher in the Rye" will make her an appropriate witness "to how alienation in the book can tie to alienation in real live video games such as World of Warcraft."

Estavillo's complaint asks the court to award him $1 million in punitive damages and to order Activision to address the problems his suit describes.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 30, 2009 at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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