Published on January 27th, 2011 | by Bryant Kazmerzak, Contributor
Follow Up: Autistic Boy’s Branding Justified!
When I posted my first article yesterday, I honestly didn’t expect Stephen Toulouse to respond to it when I tweeted it to him and, when I posted the update, I certainly didn’t expect to have GAMINGtruth flooded with almost 14,000 visitations. I mean, holy crap. I’ve never seen this site 503 before, so I guess… Thank you?
But that’s not why I am writing a follow-up. I have been seeing a lot of people on Kotaku and Reddit and even in our own comments who are saying that they want to know how the boy in question cheated, what he did, and what justification I have for putting so much faith in Stepto and Xbox LIVE admin.
First of all, I don’t have faith in Stepto, Microsoft or Xbox LIVE. I have an understanding that they have a set of rules that needs to be enforced. Now, I do know from 3rd-party anecdotal evidence that Toulouse is a nice guy, who is very down-to-earth and who is generally quite fair. He sat in a panel at PAX 2010 in Seattle, which I was not privy to but friends said that he was pretty good. So, if you want to know who’s word I trust more, the family of a child I have never met and know nothing about save for news coverage, or a man whose work and career is widely known and who is known and respected for being fair, then I’m going to have to give it to Stepto.
And for all of you vagabonds out there believing that Microsoft is trying to cover their own ass and are sticking to the “He cheated” story so they don’t get sued or so they don’t get negative press, who thinks that the corporate giant is trying to stick it to a poor little autistic boy, man, would you be wrong. What gain would Microsoft have to employ such a meaningless smear tactic? Have you tried looking at it from the cynical side of the fence?
Ever since this fiasco started, the boy’s mother has been tweeting like a canary in a coal mine to spread the word to all of her friends to “Watch the news”. Now, is this coming from a mother of a special-needs child who is trying to show the world that he’s being unfairly singled out? Or is it a cry for attention? She said in one tweet that a man offered to buy Julias a new Xbox LIVE account. Is this what she’s going for? Hand-outs for her son? Because it really seems like she’s taking him out on a publicity tour, which is what a lot of commentors on other sites are saying. I’m not going to say that I believe this is what it is about, but one cannot dismiss the possibility. If a family is willing to use a bedridden grandmother to collect Social Security checks, which is substantially worse, who’s to say that this mother isn’t using the disability of her son as a means to collect some attention and some goodies? I suppose only time will tell. And when will we know? When she has a seat on The View?
I am not trying to make light of the boy’s disability. I understand how hard it is to grow up with it; I had a great friend in a programming class who has Asperger’s, a form of autism. He got into high school at the age of 14, and he had a bitch of a time trying to fit in. Of course, he came to school in a black trench coat, combat boots, and dark prescription sunglasses, so he sort of scared some people because he looked like he was about to pull a Columbine, but he was a good kid, and my heart broke for the guy when he would get picked on or when he would get bullied and called names, but there was nothing inherently wrong with the guy. He was just smart as hell, and not very sociable because of his disorder. I don’t know what it’s like to raise an autistic child, because, well, I’m not far enough in my life to have raised one myself, nor do I know anyone personally who has, but I can’t imagine that it’d be easy.
So, what did this boy do to warrant the hammer being dropped on him?
I did some research, and apparently, what the boy (or someone else) did, was he modified game saves to grant all of the achievements for the games he played without having to actually earn them. To prevent someone from saying “I learned it on GAMINGtruth”, I won’t go into detail as to how. But it’s not out of the realm of imagination for an 11-year old with autism to discover it online and do it. But, this is something that Xbox LIVE enforcement keeps an eye out for. Apparently, there are a bunch of criteria that have to be met before someone can be reduced to nothing and labeled a “cheater”. If 100% of these criteria aren’t met, then it’s a no-go. So the XBL Admins probably checked out the kid’s achievement history, and saw some irregularities. They saw that, on X date, at Y time, Game A had all of it’s achievements earned at the exact same time. Even more damning, they probably saw that he earned online achievements on games that he probably never played online, and, on Xbox LIVE, almost everything is logged.
MS of course says “Gamerscore resets are done when cheating is detected to keep LIVE fun, fair and safe for everyone. We only do them when we are 100% confident that cheating has occurred, and they are not something that can be appealed. Details can be found here – http://www.xbox.com/Live/Cheating.”
On top of that, the mother admitted to buying Halo: Reach Recon Armor, and using cheating tactics to get it, which is a violation of the rules. According to her Twitter, Microsoft says that that is akin to buying a Super Bowl ring, which she responds with, “[Edited for grammar’s sake] …How many people have Super Bowl rings compared to Recon Armor? LOL!”.
She has mentioned on her Twitter that the account was “hacked” by someone out of state named “ItsJ0sh”, but then hours before she said that ItsJ0sh was “helping” Julias get the Recon Armor.
I am not going to point fingers. I am going to reserve judgement and remain neutral in all of this until the actual truth comes out, but at this juncture the knowns and, indeed the unknowns, all lead me and many others to believe that the family knowingly exploited Xbox LIVE for their own means, which is cheating, and, if I am right, then he and his family got what they deserved. And, if they indeed are guilty of doing these things, then parading her special-needs son around like a martyr for the media to see is deplorable, worse than the Balloon Boy incident on so many levels.
But, on the flip-side, if it turns out the family knew nothing of this (which is unlikely) and the boy is a victim here, then you know what? Retraction number two, and I will eat my beanie, because this is some F’d up S.
In the end, the burden of proof is on Microsoft’s and Julias’ mother’s shoulders. I cannot say definitively that any cheating was in play because I don’t have the facts in front of me, and since it’s against Microsoft Policy to release confidential information like the findings of the cheating investigation, then it is all on the mother to give us (The gamers) what we need to know. But, since her Twitter shows her recently throwing in the towel, I don’t think that’ll happen.
Recently, Microsoft issued a statement to Q13 Fox Seattle, the station that broke the story. It reads:
Honestly, if it’s my two cents in question, then I think that the more important question to be asking here is, “Why is a mother of an 11-year-old autistic child letting her son play M-Rated games like Dead Rising 2, Halo: Reach, Left 4 Dead 2, and Saint’s Row 2?”. I’m all about being the cool parent, but there’s a such thing as what’s appropriate for an 11-year-old child, especially one in such an easily influenced state.
Readers, stay tuned for more developments as they happen. Believe me, I’m anxious to get to the bottom of this.
Once again, specific details won’t be released due to Microsoft’s policies.
Spread the truth!