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My Thoughts on the Autistic Boy's Gamerscore

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I had another topic planned for this week's blog entry, but today's headline caught my attention so I decided to write on it instead. If you haven't heard the story, here's the basics: An autistic 11-year-old had his gamerscore reset and was branded a cheater by Xbox Live, and the boy's mom got mad and went to the media about it.

 

Now I don't know the boy or what exactly prompted the gamerscore reset, but I think I can figure out why Microsoft thinks he cheated, and it's probably because he cheated.

The knee-jerk reactors made comments like “The actions of Xbox Live here are horrible and dispicable (sic)” or “microsoft is the most evil company in the world” without thinking about why Microsoft bans, suspends, and resets gamerscores in the first place.

 

One comment read: “Couldn't they have at least investigated the situation a little more thoroughly before branding the child as a ‘Cheater’?” Well, sir, I can certainly guarantee that they did.

 

Ask yourself this: Why would Microsoft take action against the account of a paying subscriber without first investigating the situation? They wouldn’t. It alienates your customers and it’s bad for business. There’s no motivation for Microsoft to take action against a customer without legitimate evidence that they’re breaking the rules of the service. In the case of a gamerscore reset, the evidence isn’t even that hard to find: in every complaint of a gamerscore reset on the xbox.com forums, the reason for the reset is because the player had unlocked achievements offline that can only be unlocked online.*

 

Now in all likelihood, the boy didn’t know he was breaking the rules when he did it. Someone on Xbox Live probably told him how to hack achievements and the boy did so without understanding the consequences. Of course, it’s still against the rules, so if this is the case the gamerscore reset is going to stick, autism or no. Admittedly, I don’t know the first thing about raising a child (especially one with autism), but if I were a parent in this situation, I would take advantage of this opportunity to teach my child about how sometimes our actions have unintended consequences that are out of our control.

 

One thing I wouldn’t do, however, is blow the situation out of proportion by taking my story to the media, which is what this mother chose to do.

(She also lets her 11-year-old autistic son play excessively bloody and violent games like “Dead Rising,” so there’s another apparent parenting fail, although that’s a story for another day.)


Her entire story is a plea for sympathy, providing no proof that her son didn’t cheat aside from “he said he didn’t,” which may be true, but as I said above, he probably didn’t even understand what he was doing was illegitimate.

 

Her most valid point is her issues with Xbox’s phone support; many other complainants cite similar issues with Xbox’s phone representatives. There is a dedicated forum on the xbox.com website specifically set up for people on the receiving end of a ban, suspension, or gamerscore reset to get in touch with the Policy Enforcement Team. There’s no reason every Microsoft phone representative shouldn’t know to redirect those complaints to that forum. But I digress – this, too, is a story for another day.

 

The part that bothers me the most is the last line of the story: after saying that Xbox Live is her son’s “only outlet and only friend,” the mother then says she’ll cancel her son’s subscription if they fail to come through on his gamerscore. Really? You’d take away your son’s only friend? Either you’re bluffing, lady, or you’re a terrible parent.

 

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I’m interested to see what you guys think about this story. Did the mother do the right thing? Should Microsoft be more transparent in their procedures regarding these situations? And most of all, what should Microsoft do now? Even if they’re right, and they boy did cheat on his gamerscore, they’ve got an interesting PR situation on their hands. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts.

 

By the way, sorry for the terrible formatting. I tried to embed the video in the HTML but I think I just broke it. I was never that good with web stuff.

*Some complaints were given a vague, generic response along the lines of “we investigated the complaint and determined our actions were correct,” but every response to actually cite a reason that I saw cited online-only achievements unlocked offline.

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