Autistic Boy Branded A Cheater By Xbox Live

Autistic Boy Branded A Cheater By Xbox Live

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 branded 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 behaviour. The disorder changes the way the brain processes information, altering the way nerve cells and synapses come together. Sometimes this reorganisation 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 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 cancelling 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.

Xbox Live Labels Autistic Boy “Cheater” [Fox Seattle KPCQ – Thanks John!]


  • What is the news doing, showing an 11-year-old playing MA-rated games? I feel bad for the kid but really he shouldn’t be playing these at all.

  • Crab, children with Autism often process things in entirely different ways, you can’t really judge by the same standards.

    I’m amazed that Microsoft is allowed to label *anyone* a cheater, surely there is a libel issue there?

    • They’re certainly allowed to label cheaters as cheaters. Especially when it’s their service and there’s nothing in XBL terms and conditions that reserve any right to a player’s cheating/non-cheating credibility.

      Besides, not that I’m writing under the pretense of being an expert, but getting the kid off the vidya and into the outside world to hopefully pick up some improved social skills would probably do him a great deal of good. There’s more than a few fellows with autism on the internet, and spending their entire youth playing Pokemon and Sonic didn’t help them none.

      • I’m no expert on autism (or anything else, in fact… except maybe offering opinions on issues I’m not an expert on :P), but from what I understand, people with it CAN’T develop those social skills, simply because their brains are wired the wrong way.

        People with these kinds of neural disorders don’t respond to things the same way the rest of us do. So just getting out there and mingling with people won’t necessarily improve an autistic person’s social skills the way it would improve a non-autistic person’s social skills.

        • spot on brainy… its the wiring… same reason why these folk are so brilliant at some activities.

          there’s a mob over in perth, australia, that employees autistic kids (well, 20-somethings) as code checkers/programmers, and they can process/identify code errors at a phenomenally faster rate than anyone else.

          its all to do with how their brains process information. there’s a reason autistic people are sometimes called genius-savant.

      • @Steengo

        ” but getting the kid off the vidya and into the outside world to hopefully pick up some improved social skills would probably do him a great deal of good”

        You have absolutely no idea about autism and make to same mistake many people make, one that is made by either the inability or disinterest to look beyond superfacial first impressions. This attitude is why many autists suffer. Your ‘solution’ is akin to telling to a blind man that if he’d use his eyes more, he’d be able to see.

        Your solution would be perfect if autism was an unwillingness to go out there and meet people. Even 5 minutes on wikipedia should be able to help you out. I’m prefectly fine if you don’t care to look into autism but if you don’t, then also don’t make uninformed comments.

        Just in case you are around autists all the time: most people that work with autists have no idea what it means to have it. But at least some of those are of good will and do their best. Like my son’s teachers. He is an autists, I’m an asperger. Bite me.

    • My 9yo autistic son plays Call of Duty. He is not like normal kids, who mostly are dormant bullies that need just a few triggers to set them off. He is much smarter, friendlier and honest. He is caring and sharing to the point I had to prevent them to give normal friends his all his pocket money. As opposed to normal kids, who tend to take fantasy into reality, autistic kids (at least the ones I know) are able to seperate fantasy from fiction at a much earlier age. As an opinion I’d like to add: much better than normal adults.

  • This smells very fishy to me. The boy is supposedly so good at games that they think he’s cheating? How is this possible? Most ways you cheat are through taking advantage of glitches or running software that gives you an advantage. Both of these are very obvious when are in use, and look nothing like playing a game normally, no matter how good you are.

    Despite that most anti-cheat services are very careful about ensuring that a person is in fact cheating before taking any action. Better to let some cheaters get away with it, than start banning people who aren’t cheating.

    I’ll wait and hear on what grounds they banned him, because I can’t believe that they mistook skill with cheating, autism or not. Seems like the news just wanted a victim to parade on tv.

    • The article, and the XBL response therein, mentions nothing about banning, merely labeling. They cut his gamerscore and labeled his gamertag as “Cheater”. Still, it would be nice if the XBL team could review the data in cases like this, as it would be obvious if he were using glitches or aid to cheat.

  • I work with the disabled as a support worker, and this is disgusting and wrong. I really it all turns out well. Microsoft really shit me lately. Remember the xbox live user who had his account banned for living in a town named Fort Gay? They really need to look into these things before bringing the boot down, its just making them look like a bunch of hearless suits.

    • You’re talking about an organisation that spans the globe and deals with possibly billions of people.
      Things cannot be done on a case by case level at that scope… they must have blanket rules.

      If they don’t then nobody knows where they stand.

      • Yeah well for a company that deals with millions of people, i’d expect them to be alot more professional about things. Rather than the shoot first, ask questions later mentallity they seem to have. If they did, perhaps they wouldnt have as many headlines such as these?

        • How do you know the kid isn’t a cheater?

          Seems like you are the one that is shooting first and asking questions later by condemning Microsoft with no evidence.

          I believe this is the exact reason for the piece bein on the news, they know that people love to resent big corporations and who better to be a victim than a child with a disability. They don’t know the child isn’t in fact a cheater and are just trying to provoke an emotional response because it will get them more viewers.

  • Don’t expect them to restore the gamerscore, I bet they don’t even have a log of it.

    When I tried to recover a gamertag on a new console a few years ago, it recovered an old version which was missing 12,000g on it. When I called and asked them to fix it, they said they couldn’t because that was the only archived file they had at the time!

    Fck you Microsoft

    • I’d bet that the kid remembers his score, plus each score for each game he’s ever played, plus each score for each achievement he’s ever cheeved!

  • It would be nice to know all the facts. Of course it would be easier to know the facts if Microsoft would tell the mother the reason that he has been detected as a cheater.

    Did he have achievements that are glitched, so are not normally achieveable?
    Did he use a glitch to unlock achievements?
    Did he mod his gamerscore?

    I find it highly unlikely he would have his score reset for just being good at gaming.

    Bring autistic is no fun for anyone but it doesn’t excuse him for cheating IF that is what he did.

    If he didn’t cheat then Miscrosoft should rectify the situation whether he is autistic or not.

    • Agreed. I don’t want to sound unkind, but these days it’s so easy to mess with your gamerscore. You can load a program onto a USB drive which will automatically unlock 1000/1000 achievement points in most games. My little shit of a cousin did it. One day I logged on and saw his gamerscore was all of a sudden almost as high as mine. Then looking at his games list, he had 1000/1000 on all the games he had ever played.

      Not saying this boy did this, but If he did, I highly doubt his mother or the local news station would know the ins and outs of messing with your gamerscore.

  • Poor form M$, poor form.

    I wonder if his mother was told how they found he was a cheater. At least then it could be justified.

    And, yes, that’s a pretty funky controller there…

  • While its expected that the angle of the story makes it quick to jump to the poor victims defence in the face of corporate evil and bullying, I was pretty sure M$ only deleted gamescrores when they’re system demonstrated someone had intentionally boosted their score by inputting save games and similar cheating practises. The system that catches cheaters was supposed to look for odd system activity, not rapid gamerscore gains.

    Because they get a lot of flack over being pro active against cheating they only send the stock response above. I’m sure they’ve heard a lot of incredible justifications and would rather avoid engaging people about this.

    i wouldn’t be entirely surprised to find that M$ responded to a legitimate system manipulation and the poor mum is left looking very stupid for going to the media.

  • I was gonna comment when the story was first posted… but decided to see what the reception was like first:

    Microsoft adjust/ban thousands of accounts a year as a result of cheating, glitching, modding, et cetera… This is done en masse and there’s no disability checkbox on your Live account (probably quite fortunately) so Microsoft don’t know your personal circumstances. Anyways, in return for their actions MS receive a HUGE number of emails/messages proclaiming innocence and mistaken identity – well, they really don’t blitz people lightly. Usually you’ve set off a number of flags over a period of time, so it’s understandable that they have a template answer for people they quite rightly suspect of trying to BS them.

    And at this point in time, there’s nothing to prove this kid hasn’t cheated or used some exploit, but no-one’s done anything wrong in the handling of this yet – MS have acted in accordance with the ToS for people who (they determine) have cheated and they’ve given their standard response; the boy’s mother has drawn public and media attention to the situation which is the only way it will be individually reviewed…

    In fact, call me shallow, but the most irritating thing is this only has media attention because he has a disability – if this is a mistake, MS would’ve made plenty of them but they all go unnoticed. His life isn’t going to be so severely affected by having zero gamerscore and being branded a cheater…? He could destroy any stigma by starting a new account and gamerscore doesn’t mean you can’t play games anymore.

    My $0.02

    • “Anyways, in return for their actions MS receive a HUGE number of emails/messages proclaiming innocence and mistaken identity”

      Reminds me of when Bungie started punishing accounts for ‘network manipulation’ to cheat in Halo Reach, they got tons of people proclaiming their innocence. The Bungie staff manually checked the records and didn’t find a single innocent person amongst them.

      • I believe a majority of them were ‘my brother went on my account and…’ and other such BS.

        I totally agree with Ambrose, the disability and ‘spin’ they can put on this is the only reason it is news worthy. I don’t believe Micrsoft would have done this without good evidence.

        Odds are unless Microsoft feels the need to defend themselves, which even if they did could still leave them looking bad for proving a sympathetic party to be a cheater, we will never know the truth. And as they will probably look bad either way, I think they will just ignore it and let it become yesterday’s news.

    • Sorry Ambrose. I was criticising M$ for not giving an explanation. I’d want one if I was labelled a cheater due to certain technicalities and never intended to cheat.

  • Autistic people are usually exceptionally ‘gifted’ in a particular area, that may seem superhuman to other ignorant people (apparently like those from Microsoft). I bet if you were to youtube ‘autistic’ you’d find countless examples of their amazing abilities. They shouldn’t be punished for the one thing they excel at, even if they excel at it exceptionally well.

    • This is just a common misconception. Rain Man has a lot to explain for. Autistic people CAN certainly be gifted in certain fields, but saying that most of them are, is like saying most Asians are good at maths, or blacks are good at track and field, and Native Americans are native savages. Positive? Sure.. but also condescendingly naive.

      In fact, most of the truly autistic people out there less Dustin Hoffman, and more… genuinely retarded. There are idiot-savants out there, but they’re few and far between and their abilities are often greatly exaggerated.

      I love how you automatically label Microsoft as ‘ignorant.’ Because they merely labeled a guy as cheater. People don’t play with gamertags which say “I’M AUTISTIC. GO EASY ON ME”. In their database, he’s just one of a million. And indeed, when they investigated following the uproar, turns out the kid DID cheat.

      YEAH. So Autistic that he hacked his XBL account then his mother went to the press.

  • Yeah there are plenty of ways to cheat on xbox. My guess is that he was in a modded lobby on Call of Duty or something like that.

    Xbox do not reset gamerscores without a thorough investigation, and simply being good at games is not reason enough to ban someone. He broke a rule and xbox acted, just because he has autism, doesn’t exclude him from the rules.

    If they are wrong, then fair enough, but over my time at the xbox forums (about 3 years) I’ve not once seen a case where someone was incorrectly reset. And I’ve been through thousands of threads with people claimin they are innocent.

    That being said, this could be the one time they are wrong, but without the full story we’ll never really know.

    • Your mention of a modded lobby is probably quite accurate. Being Autistic he’s not likely to jump straight out if he does accidentally come across one. So in this case he may well have unknowingly cheated.

      Unfortunately this is just speculation. We’ll see what comes up if the mother decides it’s worth suing over. Otherwise M$ have have just lost themselves one of their most loyal customers and easy to please customers.

    • That’s what I thought, the fact that the mother was told is a nice touch though. So she either lied to the media, or they just covered up that fact to make Microsoft seem more like the big evil corporation and make their story better.

      • Yeah, but good luck getting Fox to set the record straight by running a follow up story about how the giant corporation righteously laid the mark of shame upon the evil, cheating disabled kid, though 😛

    • Exactly. There are probably a million other XBL users out there with more pimped-out gamerscores than himself, I like to think Microsoft had a legitimate reason for labelling him a cheater and.. surprise surprise.

      YEAH. The kid’s so autistic he was able to hack and inflate his gamerscore. Go figure.

      I still find it hilarious they’re pulling the victim/discrimination card despite the kid being lucid enough to pull something like this, and playing MA -rated games.

      But hey, good story!

      • That’s the thing about mental illness isn’t it? Within the field, there are a huge number of GPs who question the way every permutation and eccentricity is now given an ambiguous diagnosis.

        These days, terms like OCD, autism and bipolar disorder are used so liberally that their original definitions have been diluted with general use. It isn’t helped when the diagnoses are muddled with media-engineered scares like “VACCINATION CAUSES AUTISM!”

        There’s an old saying in medical school that every time a class learns a new case or condition, students will naturally wonder if they have it. And due to the inherent difficulty of measuring mental illness, we give them the benefit of the doubt.

        It makes you wonder if the skyrocketing rates of diagnosis and prescription of antidepressants is due to legitimate stress of contemporary lifestyles, or because we’re too readily labeling something mundane as something else. Yesterday’s idiot is today’s retard and tomorrow’s ‘exceptional individual.’ Just as yesterday’s jerk is today’s sociopath, and tomorrow’s ‘assertive individual.’

        TLDR: Ranting about current medical field’s definition of mental illness.

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