Published on January 26th, 2011 | by Bryant Kazmerzak, Contributor
Xbox Live Admin Labels Autistic Boy a Cheater [update]
UPDATE: HE WAS CHEATING!
Back when I had an Xbox 360, I enjoyed playing on Xbox Live and getting my ass kicked by people more skilled than I. I enjoyed popping in Rainbow 6 Vegas and being killed by people who had earned all of the weapons and upgrades and were, as such, better geared than I, because I was at least learning how to play the game (The “L” in “L2P”). It was similar to how I feel currently about PVP in World of Warcraft, but with considerably less rage.
Now, I understand that these days people can buy modified controllers that allow for extremely fast trigger pulls, hotkeys, and enable rapid-fire. I understand that, especially on the PS3 where online play isn’t being monitored by the watchdogs that Xbox Live has, people can modify the consoles to the point where they are effing gods compared to the normal people with normal hardware who rely on their skills alone. I also understand that given these cheating jackwagons’ proliferation in these online arenas, Xbox Live administration has taken a zero-tolerance stance toward such behavior.
Now, when someone is caught cheating on Xbox Live, their achievement history and gamerscore are wiped and reduced to zero, along with a big, glaring CHEATER tag put on your gamercard for all to see on XBL and XboxLive.com, as well as Games For Windows Live. To add insult to injury, there is almost no way in hell to convince the team that you weren’t cheating, and that you were merely raping face with the skills that the elder god, C’thulhu granted you.
So when I heard today from Seattle’s Q13 Fox (My old neck of the woods) that an 11-year-old autistic boy from Edgewood, Washington was admin-slapped by the XBL administrators because he was deemed a “cheater”, I was kind of shocked. First off, the kid is autistic, meaning that he is, by medical diagnosis, not very sociable. The only friends he has, and his mother has confirmed this, are the ones he made on Xbox Live. Now, autism generally allows people with it to be great at something they focus on, like for instance playing the piano, or doing algebra, or, in young Julias’ case, kicking copious amounts of ass in videogames. These people are known as savants. I’m no pro gamer, but I know my way around a Halo map or three; I’m sure this kid could whoop my ass any day of the week, and I am a little over twice his age.
Now, since a modified controller can’t feasibly be detected by the Xbox itself or the software within (Xbox Live is designed to sniff out and block consoles with hard-wired modifications), and since the only reliable way of detecting something like, say, a rapid-fire controller, is by detecting the rapidity and frequency of the button-presses, I think that the grounds on which Xbox Live is labelling this kid a cheater are a bit much. This kid woke up to play some games, only to sign in to Xbox Live and see his 15K+ gamerscore gone, and have cheater emblazoned on his gamercard for all to see.
So what happened, then?
Here’s the most likely scenario:
Julias was playing a tense game of Halo Reach free-for-all Slayer, and was kicking ass and taking names. He was kicking so much ass, in fact, that someone, and we’ve all been guilty of this before, thought that he was cheating. Maybe they called him out on it via voice chat, maybe not, but that doesn’t matter – What matters is that they reported him for cheating, which flagged him to the admins. The admins checked him out mid-match, saw he had superhuman Spartan-killing skills, and decided to kill his score and reputation instead of confronting him on it.
This is unacceptable. A medically recognized disability that makes him better at certain things than Average Joes isn’t a cheat or a hack, it’s a f*cking medical disability.
[update]: No, he wasn’t kicking ass. Just cheating.
My proposed fix to the situation:
Allow his parents to bring him up to Redmond to play some games in one of your myriad break rooms. In fact, ask my step-daddy, Shawn Veney, to let him play in his posh break room. 60-inch LCD for the win!
When they see that, in fact, this kid is friggin’ amazing, and not in fact a cheater, then you can renew his score.
[update]: Apparently he was just amazing at cheating.
I follow Stephen Toulouse and a couple other XBL admins on Twitter, so I am going to spam their boxes with this article to see what results come of it.
I’m not saying Xbox Live is wrong for doing this – After all, they were simply following protocol, and we all appreciate it when a cheater gets his or her just desserts –
But this kid did nothing wrong. Fix this, kthxbai.
[update]: He did get his desserts. And it probably wasn’t candy.
Spread the truth!