Julias Jackson is an 11-year-old boy living with autism, whose only real social interaction comes from playing online multiplayer games on Xbox Live, an activity that became more difficult when the Xbox Live team labeled him a cheater.
Autism is a neural development disorder that is often associated with a lack of social and communication skills and a habit of participating in repetitive behavior. The disorder changes the way the brain processes information, altering the way nerve cells and synapses come together. Sometimes this reorganization can lead to a person with autism excelling at certain tasks, like video games.
Julias' mother, Jennifer Zdenek, says that the boy is a particularly gifted gamer, often mastering games in three to four days, while using what I feel I should point out is the dirtiest Xbox 360 controller I've ever seen. Dirty controller or not, Julias managed to rack himself up an impressive little gamerscore.
Last week Julias logged on to play and his gamerscore was gone, and under his name was the label "Cheater". Apparently he's so good at games that Xbox Live believes he's using external aid to help him win.
His mother was understandably furious. She called and emailed Xbox Live, receiving the following email message no less than three times.
"The only actions that we take are to correct the player's current Gamerscore, and to label the player as a "cheater." This label can be observed on Xbox.com and through the player's view of their Gamercard on a console or computer that is connected to Xbox LIVE. The player can still legitimately gain future achievements. The player's experience does not change in any other way."
Future achievements can be gained, yes, but the experience definitely changes every time someone sees that label lurking beneath Julias' gamertag.
His mother will keep trying to get the error fixed, but if Xbox Live doesn't come through soon she's considering canceling Julias' account, cutting off one of the autistic boy's only social outlets.
We've reached out to the Xbox Live team regarding this story, and are currently awaiting a response. We'll update the post once that response is received.
Update: Microsoft does not negotiate with cheaters. The Live Team's response:
"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."
Looks like the tag stays.
Update 2: Reader QualityJeverage pointed us to the Twitter of Stephen Toulouse, director of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live, who had this to say about the incident:
We confirmed there were cheated achievements and gave the parent the details. This wasn't a "he played too good" situation at all.
Update 3: According to what looks to be Jennifer Zdenek's Twitter page, either she or her son (it's not quite clear) allowed a third party to access Julias' account in order to gain Recon armor for Halo. That certainly counts as cheating, one way or the other.
Xbox Live Labels Autistic Boy "Cheater" [Fox Seattle KPCQ - Thanks John!]