Reading the fine print…

The BanHammer...Stern but fairRecently the media had a field day with the news of Microsoft calling an autistic boy a cheater and canceling his achievements.  I know how it feels to be wrongfully accused and be afraid of feeling Bungie’s banhammer wrath, or even Microsoft’s.  As a girl, I have been reported for cheating just because some people think it is impossible for a girl to do better than a boy on Halo.  I have never knowingly cheated, boosted, or used exploits in any way, shape, or form.  I have beta tested and looked for exploits to make sure that the games won’t have issues like being able to score the flag through a wall.  It goes without saying that when it comes to cheating, I am not tolerant.

I saw the story of Julias Jackson [Zombie Kill67] as I was watching the Simpsons and my local news did a promo.  I searched for “Autistic Vs Microsoft” and the 1st match was a video talking about the incident.  In the video it’s made to sound like this soulless corporation [Microsoft] has robbed the poor autistic child from the privilege of playing Halo and he had received the dreaded banhammer.   Microsoft replied to the incident saying that the kid’s account was found logged in a different city and had been able to receive the “recon armor” off-line, something that cannot be done.  Microsoft had a clear case for why the achievements were stripped and why the account was labeled as a “cheater.”

There is something in us, something primal in nature that we want to protect the weak.  Julius is autistic and this is devastating to him. At the same time, there is always another side of the story.  We all know that things like tampering or giving away your password to anybody is something you just don’t do.  Apparently Julias wanted that recon armor so much that he gave his password away to another player in order to get the armor.  He violated the number one rule of online life involving gaming, email accounts, banking, shopping; anything that requires the use of a password. You don’t give your password away!  Did Julias know what he was doing?  That might be a fuzzy line due to his condition, but he knew enough to give his password away to attain the recon armor.  Is Microsoft right to label the account as a cheater and most likely ban it from playing online?  Yes, yes they are.  Cheating is a huge problem in the gaming community, giving honest players and achievement seekers an inexplicable rage when in the middle of a game someone uses an exploit or mod to win the game.  We have poured hours of game play trying and getting used to the game in order to get better at it and someone decides that is better to pay or device a method to void all restrictions made by the game in order to win.  I can’t tell you how many times a full team of 8 on a Halo match has ended with us saying, “we would have won that game, if it wasn’t for that guy glitching everywhere.”  These types of situations are frustrating and will make people stop playing the game.  That is why Bungie’s banhammer is merciless; as it should be. That is why Microsoft has an eye on it’s community and tries to eliminate this type of behavior.

It is unfortunate that an autistic boy was caught in the crossfire, whether he knew what he was doing or not. Julias’ mom later admitted that they were wrong when they said that Microsoft had banned the account unfairly and for that, I applaud her.  Trust me, if he had been unfairly banned, I would have been right there with her, but with the proof that Microsoft had provided, there was nothing more to do.

The problem remains that we have huge modding and cheating communities.  People who think that they are above the rules and regulations of a game; and the company that makes the console. That because they bought the system, they think they have the right to mod, cheat, and make the rest of the gamers’ lives miserable.  People that after a game of “Call of Duty” send you a message telling you that if you send them 1600 Microsoft points, they will get you to a higher level.  Kids that will glitch a match to get experience points faster.  Gamers that will prey on kids like Julias to get their password.  I blame whoever did the exploit more than Julias himself.  If that gamer wanted to be nice, buy Zombie Kill67 a 2 month XBL card, send him the code as a message on Xbox, and we all will be happy.  This all seemed harmless at first, but it never is.  We too pay for the game and the console to enjoy and we, the non cheating gamers, do have the right to enjoy the game as it was intended.  We, the gamers, have the right to be able to win or lose a match due to our awesome skills or lack thereof.

As always, there is another side to modding as well.  There is the modding and changing a particular product for the good of the gamers.  Let’s look at John Yan son, a four year old autistic boy.  Kyle Yan have difficulty playing games because of the controles, and Kinect has allowed him to use his body instead to play games.  That’s with the system out of the box. Modding communities have spend countless of hours playing with the Kinect since it came out and have been able to achieve wonderful things like 3D video capturing, tracking on arbitrary planes and even been able to control a digital shadow puppet!  And all because people go outside of the rules and regulations of a system.  Imagine what can be done for kids like Kyle and Julias in the near future.  Not all modding is bad, but with great geek knowledge, comes great responsibility.

If you take anything out of this, let it be that it makes you the person that will not buy gold with real cash for World of Warcraft. Let it be you the one that does not answer the Craiglist ad that guarantees to install that chip on the Xbox that is undetectable, making you invincible in game.  Let it be you, my dear beloved gamer reader, the one that will report unlawful behavior in any game, based on actual exploits and not because of the gender of your opponent.  Let it be you, the one that makes gaming a fun and free environment.


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