Another Microsoft Mishap

Recently, an 11-year-old boy was featured on the Q13 Fox news in Seattle because XboxLIVE has branded him a cheater.

He is autistic.

According to this article and the aforementioned Seattle news station (which is not to be confused with Fox News — this station reports on real things with real facts), this child was too adept at their games, which raised red flags at Microsoft, Xbox’s parent company. He is often able to master games in as little as three days. Convinced the boy was using “external aid”, XboxLIVE administrators tagged him. Like in real life, no one in the gaming community wants to have to play with someone an authority figure has marked a cheater. They have effectively cut off the only stable connection to our society this boy has.

Autism affects how nerves and synapses connect in the brain, altering thought processes, social capability, comprehension, and, in many cases, verbal abilities. Those with the disorder display repetitive behaviours, which can develop into skills used to excel in certain areas. Video games are an excellent example. The continual pressing of buttons appeals to their need for repetition and tapping out the combinations becomes a calming rhythm. Something like XboxLIVE opens a door, socially-speaking, into a world where the players interact with each other without visual contact or required conversation. This kind of setup is perfect for any autistic person like this child – he can interact with other people without being made uncomfortable and within the four walls of his home.

Now, Microsoft has made it nearly impossible for this boy to connect with anyone. His mother has contacted the company about the situation and their reply (all three replies, actually) was no better than an automated email. The short version is that they won’t remove the label, which shows up below his username on his gamer card online and in game forums. Administration claims this won’t affect his gaming experience because he is still able to play.

As someone with a neuro-developmental disorder (call it a learning disability if you have to — but I learn just fine), I am absolutely infuriated with Microsoft’s handling of this situation! As a human being in general, I’m shocked and appalled. The word “heartless” comes to mind, actually. The Live Team’s reply to the child’s mother implied that they couldn’t remove the “Cheater” stamp on his profile or restore his previous scores. Really?! This is Microsoft we’re talking about. An international, multi-billion dollar corporation. How can they NOT remove the label? Can they not find the “reverse label” button? Oh, wait, if it were that simple, they’d be using a Mac operating system. The admin team probably can’t find the right function in the program because it’s hidden in irrelevant menus. As for the little boy’s scores, the information has to be stored somewhere, so it’s not like they lost it. Again… Microsoft. They have backups of their backups. Those backups have backups. Their systems probably autosave every few minutes. They built the technology, so why not?

Treating a unique case such as this like it were “just another situation” is just plain gross. This kid can’t integrate socially, and XboxLIVE is putting up a roadblock on the only path he has to society. And it’s all because they refuse to, as the article puts it, “negotiate with cheaters”. Who do they think they are, the US State Department? This isn’t an act of terrorism we’re talking about here. It’s a very plain and clear case of wrongful classification. Obviously an autistic child isn’t cheating at video games, so you can relax, Xbox. Cheating is probably something that would drive him into a tantrum-like frenzy — his way of saying he disagrees with what’s happening because it doesn’t follow what he perceives to be the correct way, or his recognised way, of doing things.

In today’s world, it’s so easy for corporations such as Microsoft or Telus to treat our situations and issues with a black-and-white frame of mind. You either have problem A or problem B, which can be solved by solution 1, 2 or 3. If your issue, request or inquiry doesn’t fit into their cookie cutter, any resolution becomes a thing of dreams. Problem C has no solution; it’s not one of our choices on our automated menu. Forget talking to a real person who can listen to you and assess your situation. Unique circumstances need not apply. Machines are efficient, yes, but lack empathy and the ability to think outside the box. Give them an un-programed third option and their system shuts down, becoming useless and infuriating. Think of the last time you tried telling the Telus voice menu that your mobile doesn’t work and you don’t know why. Did it say “That must be frustrating! Let’s see if we can’t fix that for you.”? NO! It probably said “I’m sorry. Did you say ‘TV and Internet Bundling?”. Best part of my day, let me tell you.

But for Microsoft and Xbox to continue such a detrimental action is yet another ding on the warped car door that is their reputation. They’re claiming the labeling is to keep the XboxLIVE community “fun” for everyone. And everyone loves a hypocrite, am I right?

What a freaking joke. No wonder I’m a Mac.

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