Websites the world over took up arms late last week over the sad tale of an 11 year old autistic boy being banned from Xbox Live and being labeled a cheater. His mother was outraged and immediately reached out for media attention, requesting that Microsoft repair the gamerscore and remove the cheater label.
Today however, it’s been reported that the kid did in fact “unintentionally” take part in gamerscore-modding and here’s the response from MS’s Director of Policy and Enforcement Stephen Toulouse…
“The account Zombie Kill67 transferred from the Xbox it is normally seen on, to an Xbox in another city. The account earned several achievements for Halo 3 that can only be done online and in succession. It was clear they were unlocked out of order and offline. Earning successive online achievements out of order and offline is an impossible feat, not due to skill, but due to the technology of the system. It can only be done by modifying the account and faking the achievements.”
There’s quite some food for thought here. Autism is a serious issue and parents of children afflicted by it should be accorded great respect. What shines out of the above video is the mother’s commitment to Julius’ gaming as a social outlet and her son’s clearly debilitating affliction. In the face of this, it feels wrong to make the issue about how we handle cheating. All Julius did was let his gamerscore be modded to he could achieve a piece of Recon armour through Halo Waypoint and I can understand that neither he nor his mother would even be aware of the consequences should he be caught. Does his mental capacity protect him from such behaviour?
To maintain the integrity of the achievement system, it is important that Microsoft bans those who seek to cheat their way around it. Gamerscore can be approached in several ways, as a personal performance driver, a competition between friends or as a giant swinging e-peen for online forums, it holds a different meaning to each player. Growing up with games, I knew that the second I entered a cheat code, maybe IDDQD (God Mode for the original Doom), the sense of challenge was lost, and once used it was too hard to turn off the minute a challenge did rear its head. If Microsoft didn’t crack down on cheating then all three of the above approaches are voided (personal performance being voided ala IDDQD). It’s easy at this point to ask why Microsoft can’t overturn the ban on this one occasion, but it’s equally easy to understand why they haven’t.
If they overturn the ban here they’ll have a hundred copycat claims the following day along with a wide range of excuses and reasons (real or otherwise) and unless Microsoft wishes to hire their own team of globe-trotting psychiatrists this is unlikely to ever happen. Maybe someone could hack Kinect and create some sort of bullshit detector? Mind you, the Kinect would probably then delete itself out of existence.
It appears Julius is determined to make up ground and is currently showing a gamerscore of 40 from Halo Reach and I’m sure we all wish him well in the journey.
Do you think it’s fair that Julius was labeled a cheater and had his gamerscore reset? Do you think gamerscore warrants such tight controls? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter - @DarkMellie.