Xbox Live Death Threat Costs Me $12.50

Dave Zatz —  December 22, 2008

Given the amount of first-person shooter online gaming I partake in these days, it was bound to happen… In a recent Call of Duty World at War online match with more than the usual amount of trash talking going on (guilty, as charged), one player who couldn’t hold his own in the virtual battle or in the verbal sparring took it to another level when he threatened me, saying “I’ll kill you in real life with a real gun.” Of course, it’s highly unlikely I’m in any danger. What we have here is a maladjusted individual with poor anger management and interpersonal skills.

However, this seemed like a good opportunity to change my Gamertag to something a bit more anonymous. You see, when I originally setup Xbox Live I had zero intention of gaming with others. It was all about downloading high definition movies. And I’ve never been shy about interacting online without a veil of anonymity. But, going forward, why tempt fate? So I gave the Xbox Live support folks a call… and it turns out a death threat doesn’t exempt you from the Gamertag change fee, which runs 800 Microsoft Points. As Microsoft doesn’t actually match Points to dollars or sell 800 Point bundles via Live, I ended up paying $12.50 for 1,000 Points to fund my new identity.

Death threats must come in regularly, because the support staff didn’t seem concerned. In fact, I’d say they were pretty dismissive. Which leads to the point of this post… Keep your kids away from Xbox Live, ensure they’re supervised by an adult, or get a Wii instead. There’s just way too much profanity, hate speech, and apparently threats going on.

36 responses to Xbox Live Death Threat Costs Me $12.50

  1. While I haven’t experience the death threat, in my experience gaming on XBox Live, there is too much profanity and specifically racial epithets hurled around to make me want to associate with that community. I downgraded to XBL Silver. I don’t have much need for XBL Gold b/c I let my Tivo S3 do my Netflix streaming for me.

  2. I’ve gotta disagree with your advisory. There’s plenty of controls on xbox live to control/disable messaging or chat for concerned parents. If they care, they’ll take the .2 seconds to set them up, at which point they’ll be in place for all games.

    unfortunately, it seems most don’t, and those same kids are the ones putting out most of the hate speech on XBL.

    That said, if I had a kid, I probably wouldn’t have them playing on XBL or any other online service unsupervised, but I don’t think too-cumbersome-to-actually-play-with-or-talk-to-anyone friend codes are the answer.

  3. Playing with your hommes on line, calling each other names, breaking their balls, and drinking heavily is almost a requirement. There is always one dope that takes it too seroiusly and ruins it for everybody. Death threats, not cool.

  4. I wonder, if I was already friends with you on XBox, if you’re still my friend after the name change? Or if I have to specifically re-add you…

  5. You’d still be friends Nicholas, of course, it can be confusing when there’s suddenly a person on your list you don’t recognize. I’ve had a few people change names on my list, usually the friend of friends feature has been useful for me to figure out who that person is again.

  6. …and that’s why I’ll stick with my PSN…I’ve had zero profanity issues (or death threats) playing the few games I do play online on the PSN. Most of the people I’ve met playing online sounded to be older than teenagers.

  7. FYI Comment moderation is now on. Profanity, threats, ass hats who comment without obviously reading the post, etc will get flagged as spam. Dissenting opinions are welcome, but you must converse like an adult if you want to contribute here.

  8. My guess is, they get a lot of different excuses for people wanting to change their gamertags and avoid the $10 fee. It isn’t their responsibility to investigate those claims or determine their veracity. If you were truly upset by the threat or felt that it was serious enough to warrant changing your gamertag, you should be going to the police to file a police report. At which point, the police would likely subpeona Microsoft for the personal information of the offending gamertag. Once the police are involved, it is very likely Microsoft would then refund your points purchase if you had already made it or they would have done the change for free.

  9. Hmmm, it is expensive. i do actually get alot of requests to report a persons gamertag to microsoft. turns out if you get a certain number reports against your name, microsoft ask you to change it free of charge

  10. That’s awfully disturbing. I wish people wouldn’t do that type of thing. I just avoid using a mic while playing online… it’s much more fun to listen to people insult each other anonymously.

    By the way, at Richard Lawler… if that’s your real surname, we share it. Not often you run into another Lawler while roaming the interwebs. :)

  11. How very sad, now, please do not tag me as a fanboy, but after using pretty much every online service there is, I have found that the communities which are free of this douchebaggery, are the Team Fortress 2 groups for the PC, and PSN in general (and no, I do not own a ps3, I have simply used PSN a LOT at friend’s houses, as well as Xbox Live, or whatever its called). Sadly, Live seems to be filled with arrogant, shallow, and disgusting individuals, even if the general community is OK, there’s still a rather high concentration of those kind of people. I genuinely have no idea why, though I suspect it’s something to do with the pricing of the console, and the “frat boy” image it seems to have. Either that or people are just much more civilised on PSN and the PC, and banhammer anyone who is an ass.

  12. I changed my gamer tag for the exact same reason. It was too easy for people to discover my actual identity, and I run into too many obnoxious children on Xbox LIVE.

    Technically, Microsoft should have *required* you to change your Gamer Tag (at no charge). The Code of Conduct says you’re not allowed to provide personally identifiable information in your profile.

    You might be able to get some help from Stephen Toulouse (Gamer Tag: Stepto; stepto@microsoft.com). He’s head of Policy Enforcement at Xbox LIVE. (Since this is on Gizmodo, he’ll probably see it anyway.)

  13. MS probably takes the position that Alymon stated in #8.

    Anyway, I keep my IDs pretty much the same on most sites/services except for eBay. I picked a totally different name just to be safe.

  14. Maybe you shouldn’t provoke people and trash talk them to the point where they want to kill you. Ya think? That would definitely have solved the problem in this case.

    If you’re THAT good, you shouldn’t need to trash talk, anyway. I understand being disturbed by a death threat- which shouldn’t happen under any circumstances. But anyone who trash-talks maliciously and then complains about childishness and douchebaggery on Xbox live is- by definition- a douchebag. And crying to MS about it is exactly like taunting someone until they want to kill you- and then when they come after you, you cry to the cops. Lame.

  15. You do realise that there is a free way of changing your Gamertag without paying for it?

    You just ask ALL your friends list and any random gamers you find to report your gamertag in the Report screens and once it receives enough reports the system automatically orders you to change your gamertag before it will let you play again. This order by Microsoft doesnt require any payment as its Microsoft that are asking YOU to change the gamertag rather than the other way around of you asking THEM.

    Several of my friends change their gamertags every 3 months or so to a new one via this method and never once been charged for it. ;)

  16. @John – DZ is a douchebag? Yeah, I’m trying to figure out when in life/games/wherever it is remotely acceptable to threaten to actually kill someone. I guess if someone said they were going to do something horrible to one of my family members, but then again, why am I hanging out somewhere with these types of individuals?

    So, maybe DZ shouldn’t hang out there and complain about it, but at the same token, it’s never acceptable to threaten to actually kill someone. That is never deserved. And I don’t recall DZ saying he “was that good”.

    Go away, it’s attitudes like yours that have made the internets a sucky place.

  17. oh well…must you talk on the mic? is it compulsory???

  18. I am completely unsympathetic.

    You made a choice and you need to accept responsibility for it.

    I play quite a bit where there is minimal trash-talking. People frequently bid each other “Good game,” when the games have finished.

    You and your ilk are the reason the climate has changed. You readily admit to talking more trash than normal – you instigated the threat. You got under this kid’s skin and goaded him into saying something he normally would not have, and then you reported on the incident in your column as if you were a completely innocent victim, and citing the low quality of Microsoft’s incredible service as the culprit.

    No, sir – I submit that YOU are the reason people should be wary of Xbox live. If you’re going to spend your time playing with 14 year olds, as an adult, you should exercise a little more responsibility and stop contributing to delinquent behavior.

  19. It’s not okay to threaten to kill someone and I never said it was. I said it was dumb to expect not to be threatened when you yourself are provoking people. When you taunt someone you don’t know maliciously, you should expect what you get in return- IRL, on the web or otherwise. I’m saying that people should take more responsibility for their own behavior in the first place, before it ever gets to death threats.

    To me, people throwing out death threats is just a natural result when you have a whole buncha people in the same space maliciously trash-talking others they don’t know. Someone loses it eventually, and we have the ignorance to act surprised and cry about it when they do.

    In other words- the quote “The problem is not the problem- YOU are the problem” seems pretty appropriate here.

  20. @John -

    It’s not lame to complain to the police when someone tries to come after you and kill you.

    If you trash talk someone, they trash talk back, they don’t threaten to come after you with a gun. That’s entirely unacceptable, as is your current attitude towards the situation.

  21. Dan, John: I think you’re mischaracterizing the nature of my trash talking, I’ve got probably one of the cleanest mouths on Xbox Live, though the room itself was pretty charged. However, John you do raise a good point that we have no idea who’s on the other end. Which is exactly why I decided to choose an anonymous Gamertag today. Nowhere am I crying about this – it’s an interesting, educational, and even amusing experience worth sharing.

    Dan, he sounded like an adult to me and this game is rated for “kids” 17 and over. Though, it’s obvious that doesn’t mean much – emphasizing Richard’s point of lacking parental guidance.

    Honestly, most of my experiences are fine in CoD (compared to say Halo)… it’s usually a more mature crowd and folks are generally congenial – I’ve logged dozens of hours. The occasional taunting and cursing is usually minimal and good-natured, though inappropriate racial and antisemitic language irks me (and get reported). Leading back to my original point… Xbox Live isn’t a place for unsupervised children.

  22. Wow Dave your first death threat your growing in to that hardcore gamer now. LOL! Don’t worry, I’m sure some of your readers would love to jump in game to get your back.

    @ Nate L. you haven’t been in Home before they took the open world mic out that was all kinds of hate right there.

  23. The only reason there isn’t hate speech on wii is because the online is broken. Voice chatting is broken on PlayStation 3 which is why you don’t heat that stuff on the PSN. The reason that Microsoft was dismissive is because they knew it was a little brat who wouldn’t do anything. Maybe me and my friends are lucky, but we never hear anything worse then someone call someone else a fag, then they are immediately booted.

  24. If I’m receiving believable death threats I think I’m going to the police not Microsoft tech support.

    You could of probably argued that you have personal information available in your gamertag, and want it removed. Since the TOU claims caution against revealing personal information said information can be assumed to be dangerous and it’s in MS’s best interests to change your gamertag, or more likely just delete your online account.

    You may have an argument though that MS has responsibility since they never mention personal information in gamertags in their COC agreement.

    Most the time if a TSR hears TOU, COC you’ll either get exactly what you want or they’ll pass the buck since they aren’t allowed to interpret license agreements.

  25. I apologize it was me, I blow at call of duty, I am the worst player in the world, i mean i was just so into the game and then you totally kicked my but when you blew my brains out with that sniper rifle haha

    But in all seriousness, microsoft really should not be able to charge for something along those lines, I mean thats like going to the cops (and microsoft is the Xbox Live 5-0) and saying someone just threatened to kill me and they tell you to cough up ten bucks for them to hide your name, can we get a repay ‘Zatz because Microsoft is Greedy’ Fund??

  26. i’m still waiting for xbl vip adult service where you need to be at least 30 years old and the annual fee is around $500. that would eliminate most of these idiots.

  27. I can see that you was trying to protect your ID but the end of the day its like a 2.5% chance he could actually find you. And if hes giving those sort of threats on a online game, hes probuly doing it maybe everyday. So i wouldnt worry, hes probuly to fat n lazy to even atempt to move himself from the virtual world of war, And to lazy to even pull the trigger.

    I have had people saying there going to fu** me up, but nothing like that. I jus find it funny.

    Take care, Happy christmas

    From Dan

  28. I definitely don’t blame you for changing your name, Dave. I recently changed mine for similar reasons. There is, however, a time and place for death threats during online gaming. I’ve found that real-world physical violence is the only way to discourage spawn camping.

  29. You have to pay to change your gamertag?? Jeeez, does ms also charge you to wipe your ass??

    Get a decent machine – get a PS3.

  30. Hehe, Kotaku link = comment flood. :) I really wish something could be done about this. XBL is a great service and voice chat can be really useful when you get matched up with good teammates, but there are way too many asshats. I’ve had friends that specifically avoid Halo because of the attitude of the players, and in my experience, CoD 4 isn’t that much better. Gears of War I was the worst by far.
    It would be fantastic if MS would recruit moderators on XBL…just like forums, where trusted gamers could insta-punish the people who are slowly killing the online gaming community.

  31. I left the PC community because of cheaters, hackers, and exploiters. I have enjoyed the Xbox Live community so far and I simply ignore all the profanity because it’s not really needed.

    I understand that many players release their aggression in online gaming by spouting off battle taunts, which is basically profanity on an epic scale, but to me.. it’s pointless. I like to play the game without having to talk to anyone, or just talking to my small group of friends in party chat.

    There was a post on GamaSutra about the pros and cons of the anonymous community: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3604/fixing_online_gaming_idiocy_a_.php

    You take a normal person, allow them to be anonymous, and give them an audience.. you get one of many “online idiots”.

    It’s really a good read.

  32. What it all comes down to is what I like to refer to as “internet tough guy syndrome”. You get all these idiot kids wanting to talk smack and of course its easier to do it when its over a mic. And for some reason, there’s a lot of hate towards Mexicans.

  33. I have on word for you “PS3″.
    Its free.

  34. Agreed. it’s the reason why i mute every single person the instant I enter into a multiplayer match. The maturity level is incredibly low.

  35. I was wondering about the new tag.

    The incredibly racist and homophobic trash talking is pretty grating and far too common in FPSs. I usually stay on mute or do a private chat with Xbox friends.

    Haven’t run into any trash talking in Catan lately.

  36. KidDeath, And therein lies the irony. If we were all forced to use our real names, as I did, people would be much more likely to act civilized. It’s also ironic that folks with offensive Gamertags can change them for free, whereas I was charged. I’m not sweating the money, it’s not a big deal. But it is an ironic policy.

    As a reminder, comments are being moderated and will be held in the queue until I get to them. Thoughtful contributions are welcome, snide remarks lacking substance are not.

    Update: Comments are now closed.

    Update 2: Someone at Microsoft must have seen this post… As $12.50 was automagically refunded to my bank card 12/26, which I didn’t discover until today (1/3). Of course, as mentioned above, I didn’t sweat the few dollars to begin with.