While you bring up a point, I don't think it should matter.
The immediate question is Should Smallwood get 3 Million dollars for playing a video game for 5 years?
It doesn't matter how addictive it is. I could develop Alchoholism but I can't sue Bacardi for keeping me in the hole. It's negligent? What the heck is NCsoft supposed to do? Make Lineage II LESS fun?
I can't believe a judge allowed this case to go forward. On what grounds does developing an addiction allow you to persue a lawsuit? (If thats the case, can't every single smoker in the country sue the cigarette companies for 3 million dollars for every 5 years they smoked, essentially bankrupting that industry?)
I think there's a possibility that the company has a "duty of care" and could possibly have seen that someone playing 20,000 hours is not using the game in a healthy way. WOW has a command line option (played) that adds up the total time you've played on that character down to the minute or second... lineage could very likely have a query that runs to tell them if anyone's account is online an unhealthy amount.
WOW even has a message during a load screen "remember to go outside sometimes"
There are stories about of Korean kids who've died at the computer playing games... not sure if it was WOW, but the deaths have happened.
Is there a reasonable expectation that the company have usage monitors in place to detect "over playing"? They know that a certain, minuscule portion of the population can get dangerously addicted.
I'm pretty sure that they should hold some responsibility for it, however I don't think that this person is necessarily worth $3million. The average american doesn't make 3 million in five years. I'd estimate the absolute minimum wage times the number of years they were playing at dangerous levels.
I'd see a non-disclosed settlement without admitting guilt on the order of $60K to $80k just to make him go away. The court fees are more & the precedent is worse.