For players on the Xbox Live network, Microsoft is judge, jury, and executioner. Users of the service who run afoul of the its policies continually complain about being banned from the site for myriad reasons, some understandable (their gamertag was: "White Power"); some just plain weird (they used a blue icon instead of green).
In the case of 13-year-old Taylor Leeson, however, the reason for being banned was simple: It was due to an error on Microsoft's part.
But how the software company responded to the error has led to a whole bunch of pissed-off people--one mom most of all.
Whistleblower reports that last month, Leeson was given the boot from Xbox live shortly after his mom had purchased the Xbox system, plus about $300 in equipment.
Leeson was sent a message telling him he'd been banned, but offering nothing in the way of an explanation.
When Leeson's mother and other Xbox LIVE subscribers complained about the ban, which affected an unknown number of Microsoft customers around the world, they said they were told the only way to regain online access would be spending $199 for a new Xbox console.
"Microsoft has robbed my child of a voice and denied him the right to assert his innocence," Lorraine Leeson [Taylor's mom] wrote in a recent complaint to the Minnesota attorney general's office. "We have offered to send Microsoft our console, all games, controllers for verification, which Microsoft flat out refused, saying, and I quote, 'It isn't worth it.' Worth it to whom? To Microsoft? A 13-year-old boy begs to differ."
The response by Microsoft went semi-viral in the Minneapolis area where it happened. And since then Microsoft has reinstated the boy's access.
Whether the company has truly "robbed [a] child of a voice" seems like a bit of a stretch. But for a 13-year-old boy with $500 worth of semi-unusable Xbox gear, the world likely felt like a cruel, cold one indeed (read: first-world problem).
The ban brings does to mind another instance of an Xbox ban making news--in this case national news.
In January Microsoft banned an 11-year-old autistic boy from Xbox Live for cheating. The boy and his mom swore he never cheated and was simply extremely gifted at video games.
The fact that he was autistic inspired sympathy from around the country and introduced the idea that he might be some kind of gaming savant.
Then it became clear that he really was just a dirty cheater.