Erik Estavillo has been given a handful of nicknames by the press recently – he listed "Professional/PSN Plaintiff," "The Serial Suer" and a few others when he spoke with Joystiq this morning. He assured us though, time and time again, "That WoW lawsuit, that's my final lawsuit. So people know, I'm not suing any more companies." In case you missed it, Estavillo is currently engaged in four separate lawsuits – one with Microsoft, one with Nintendo, one with Sony (in both Federal and State court), and one with Activision Blizzard. "One lawsuit for each major console maker and one for the PC, so four total," he clarified to us.
Aside from seeking money (anywhere from as low as $180 to $1 million, depending on the case), we asked Estavillo what his intentions were behind launching the multiple lawsuits. "What I wanted to do was exploit the weakness of each console and show that they're not impervious to flaws ... each console has a flaw and they should fix it," he said. During the interview as well as in some of his court filings, Estavillo claimed to be suffering from a variety of psychological maladies, and has repeatedly stated that he uses online gaming as his primary form of communication. "I told this other interviewer and it's true – I actually have no friends. I rely on online gameplay for socialization."
Though he's yet to win a case, his first (by default) could come as soon as December 3 – the end of Sony's 30 days to respond to a summons. If he does, that would mean $180,000 and a "no contest" ruling against Sony. Though he said he'll keep some of the money he may win, he noted that, "Half the money I get is gonna go to God. I'm giving half the money I get to CBN [Christian Broadcasting Network], local churches, charities, or poor people on the street."
We talked to Estavillo about a variety of other topics – from what games he plays to why he's subpoenaing celebrities instead of experts – but due to sheer length we've broken the rest of the interview out after the break.
Update: Erik Estavillo emailed us this evening to say that Sony has responded to his summons, thus closing out the possibility of a default settlement. The first hearing will be in early 2010.
On his lawsuits:
I don't have any outside the game industry. Just actually one lawsuit for each major console maker and one for the PC. So there's four total. [Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Activision Blizzard]
On what games he plays/which consoles he owns:
I own all three, currently my Xbox is out getting repaired. I'm playing Dragon Age right now, and Mario Kart for the Wii. And I have a lot of Guitar Hero. Resistance 1 and 2, Killzone 2 and Warhawk – pretty much exclusives for the PlayStation.
On why he's suing, why he plays online:
I told this other interviewer and it's true -- I actually have no friends.
If anyone wants to test that, they can check my phone records -- cell phone or home phone -- and find out that I don't call anyone and no one calls me. I rely on online gameplay for socialization.
On End User License/Terms of Service Agreements:
You just have to click it. In my complaint I said there are even little kids who click it. There are little kids who play Resistance, like 8 years old, who play it. So they don't even read the EULA as most people don't. I'm sure you don't right? I mean, who does?
I tried to invalidate that with Judge Whyte in the first case and he didn't wanna hear it. Like you said, there's a terms of service, takes care of the refunds. And I still think people who are banned should be refunded for their downloadable content. For instance, I downloaded Warhawk. That's like 30 bucks. And I got PSN cards which were in excess of 100, maybe 150. So I said to the judge can we at least be refunded, and he referred to the EULA. What I did was appeal the decision ...
Because he [the judge] didn't really give me a chance. He was already on Sony's side when I went in and I could tell. Richard J. Mooney, the lawyer for Sony, he just gave a simple, maybe a paragraph, to the judge, and I tried to talk and the judge just didn't wanna hear it. He said, "Well, you know, I agree with Sony."
On Sony and arriving at the price for "pain and suffering" and "punitive damages":
There's four cases. They're not interrelated or interlinked. They're separate cases.
I sued [Sony] because when they banned me, they banned my whole console. Which is like a $500 waste there, because I can't go online anymore, which was one of my ways of socializing. So when I sued for $55,000, that was something called punitive damages. Where you're trying to penalize a company, and that was what I was trying to do – penalize them for banning someone. If I was cheating or somehow modified my system then I could understand the ban, but they simply banned me for talking. And I thought they should be penalized for that, hence the punitive damages and pain and suffering.
I actually have a five-to-ten page pain and suffering document that I turned in as evidence as my doctors can attest to. My doctors looked at the pain and suffering evidence and realized I was suffering and doubled my meds [medicine] because of it. So that's pain and suffering, with punitive damages, add those two together, and you get $55,000.
On financing multiple lawsuits:
I'm on disability so I get SSI [Supplemental Security Income] and SSA [Social Security Administration] benefits for a total of $800 a month. I don't get a lot of money, it's only $800. So when I file my cases I always ask for a fee waiver. You fill it out and if they grant you the fee waiver -- which I've been granted in all my cases, because I can't afford to file since I'm on disability. Since I'm not paying a lawyer, I represent myself in all my cases. So it costs zip.
Joystiq: To be clear, you're unemployed?
Correct, I'm on disability.
On why he's suing game companies:
What I wanted to do was exploit the weakness of each console and show that they're not impervious to flaws. Each console has a flaw and they should fix it. Or not do it (like ban people on the PlayStation) or disable the homebrew channel or get a red ring. When I go to court about the Xbox suit I'm gonna mention Lemon Laws. That's what I'm gonna use against Xbox. And I also subpoenaed Bill Gates. But what I want people to know the most is that I'm not gonna file anymore court cases. 'Cause, you know, I think I've done enough. I just wanna give power back to the gamer. That's all. People might see it differently, but that's all I wanted to do. So that gamers don't have to take it, you know?
On subpoenaing celebrities (rather than "experts"):
Medical professionals cost money I believe. If you subpoena them and want their expert advice they're gonna charge you, which I can't afford. I can't afford expert witness. Also, expert witnesses like Winona Ryder on Catcher in the Rye – I didn't get like a professor of literature which I guess I could have. I chose Wynona Ryder and Martin Gore, one part is because what I say about them is ... Martin Gore through his lyrics you can tell he's sad, lonely, alienated. And on another website, someone asked Martin Gore what his songs mean to his fans and he said, "well, they appeal to the most dysfunctional people." That's what Martin Gore said himself. So, I know he's sad lonely and alienated just through the songs he writes, so that's why I subpoenaed him.
And Wynona Ryder was because her liking of Catcher in the Rye and mine. I have always read the book. There's a theme of alienation in the book, would you agree?
Winona Ryder knows about alienation because she read the book ... I know it's a little far fetched as most people would see, as where the Bill Gates one isn't because he's part of Microsoft.
I believe the celebrity subpoenas where people don't agree with ... you know there's a WoW [World of Warcraft] craze. I would give you the YouTube link about a WoW kid who had his account canceled and he went crazy. What I want to do is bring national attention to not just that video but I wanna bring national attention to how video games are harming ... for instance, I'm not against gaming like Jack Thompson would be, but WoW is actually harmful when they cancel your account. Or when any company cancels your account like Sony canceled mine. It's just harmful to the gamer and I'm trying to bring national attention, hence why I subpoenaed celebrities because they will bring national attention to this.