Vivendi and Sony have come under fire from an American woman who claims Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly caused her son to have an epileptic seizure, which has left him with permanent disabilities.
According to Gamespot she accused the companies of being "negligent, careless, and reckless with regard to the design and manufacture" of the game, and is seeking damages "for such fair and reasonable amount as may be awarded by a jury of his peers". Which would apparently be a group of toddlers.
However, the PS2 version of Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly - like almost every other game ever - contains a warning on the inside of the manual, highlighting that a small percentage of photosensitive epileptics could be at risk of seizure when playing the game.
Epilepsy warnings became commonplace after 635 Japanese children were admitted to hospital after watching an episode of Pokemon back in 1997. Following the event, Nintendo was quick to add labels to its products warning players about the risk of seizures.
Lawsuits have become commonplace since then too, with numerous people, including The Sun newspaper, calling for bans on games said to induce epileptic fits.
We are still waiting to hear back from Vivendi.
Those of you worried about your children playing computer games should heed the advice of epilepsy.org.uk and always monitor your children playing the game.
And while Epilepsy Action couldn't comment on this specific incident, it could offer us some helpful guidelines. Safety first, Eurogamers, remember that.
- If you are using a television rather than a computer monitor, please note that television is a common trigger for photosensitive seizures. The nearer you are to the screen the more likely it is to trigger a seizure. This is because a larger area of your eye’s retina is stimulated by the flicker of the picture, increasing the risk of a seizure. If you sit close to the screen you can see the 25 Hz flicker of the lines as well as the 50 Hz mains flicker on the screen as a whole. It is common for people with photosensitive epilepsy to be sensitive to 25 Hz, so it makes sense to sit well back from the television to reduce the risk of seizures.
- Before playing, check to see if there are any warnings that come with the game. Most games manufacturers, but not all, follow the Office of Communications (Ofcom) television guidelines. Some put a warning on the packaging while others put it on the instructions inside.
- Avoid playing when tired as tiredness/lack of sleep may increase the risk of a seizure.
- Take frequent breaks for rest and food between playing games.
- Play video games in well-lit areas.
- Sit as far back from the monitor as possible.
- If possible, use an LCD/TFT monitor, but remember to reduce the brightness of the screen to reduce the contrast.
- For most people, covering one eye while playing will reduce the effect of any flickering on the screen. You should cover your eye, not simply close it.
- If your child has photosensitive epilepsy, you may wish to keep a close eye on them when they are playing video games. If they show any signs of distress or discomfort such as dizziness, blurred vision, loss of awareness or muscle twitching, you should immediately stop them playing the video game.