Plenty of parents play video games with their kids. Some, like Thomas Wetzel, take it pretty seriously. Mr. Wetzel forked out for a second Xbox 360 so that he and his nine-year old son could play games together via System Link. Then, when Crackdown 2 was released – without System Link – Dad signed Tommy up for an Xbox Live Gold subscription, so they could still play together.
These days, Dad and Tommy are fans of Battlefield 1943, which Dad had installed on his console. After one too many disagreements over who could play the game, Dad decided to buy Tommy his own copy of the game, through Xbox Live Marketplace. Sounds simple and straightforward, right?
[img_big]center,652,2010-11-17/airshot3.jpg,Battlefield 1943 – only when you’re old enough[/img_big]
Dad paid for $15 worth of Microsoft Points (1200, to be precise), and downloaded the game. Everything was fine, until Dad tried to open the game – and wrestle with EA online game authentication as well. This was the first time Tommy had played any EA> games online, so Dad set up an account for him. Then the game wouldn’t connect. EA support advised him to download a demo of another of their games, and use that to create a user account. Finally, when Dad got to the Terms of Service agreement, he was greeted with the information that you have to be at least 13 years old to play EA games online.
As Tommy had been set up with a “child” account – EA won’t let him play.
Dad then contacted EA to find out if there was anything that could be done – if the game could be unlocked, or perhaps a refund for the unplayable game? EA explained that the only available option was a $20 credit to the EA Store. Dad declined – partly out of principle, and partly because he wasn’t interested in any of the titles on offer.
So he took the situation to Xbox Live support. They reiterated that all Marketplace sales are “final and non-refundable”. The rep also explained that:
Xbox LIVE determines whether an account is a child account or an adult account based on the age of the account owner. An Xbox LIVE account can only be changed to an adult account after the account owner reaches legal adult age.
The option to change the age of an account holder is simply “not available”, the rep explained.
Now, Wetzel acknowledges that – for some people – letting a nine-year old boy play games rated M is a touchy subject. He explains that, as the parent, it’s his decision to make – and the problem he has is more with EA making no indication of a minimum age requirement until after he’d paid his money.
“There’s a standard ESRB rating on the game of T – but those are a guideline to inform parents – not a lawful minimum age to play games online,” he wrote. “Halo and Crackdown are both rated M, and I play those with my nine year old all the time; this may not make me the greatest parent ever, but it’s harmless fun and he’s smart enough to know that what’s happening on screen is as real as a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”
Wetzel will be chatting with more Xbox Live customer support reps in the near future, and hopes the issue can soon be resolved. Until then, he advises parents to not use their kids’ real ages when you set up Xbox Live Gold accounts – unless you want a collection of games they cannot play online.
[img_big]center,652,2010-11-17/bf1943_screens_010.jpg,Unsuitable for young viewers[/img_big]
For the record, Wetzel also explains he will not be renewing Tommy’s Xbox Live Gold account when it expires shortly.