When gaming is no longer an escape

Thanks to automated anti bot software, and a less than supportive community, one disabled gamer’s experience with a popular massively multiplayer online game turned negative

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Don't mess with a company that has tanks

Image credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

As I wrote last November, for many disabled people, gaming is not just a form of entertainment, but also a way to make friends, belong to a group and generally build self esteem without being stigmatized because of their disabilities. But what happens if your disability affects your performance in a team game or the anonymity about your condition that gaming usually provides is taken away? As a lifelong disabled gamer with whom I recently came into contact found out, it can be lead to an unhappy experience. 

Adam (not his real name; he’d like to remain anonymous), is a 40-something European male with a disability who has been gaming for most his life. Starting with the Commodore 64, he’s played all types of computer games and had never had a negative experience because of his disability - until he recently began playing World of Tanks. “I did have it in other social situations, but until now never with a computer game,” he said. 

World of Tanks (WOT) is a team-based massively multiplayer online (MMO) game developed by Wargaming.net, played by more than 45 million people worldwide. In WOT, teams of 15 players battle other teams using mid-20th century tanks. The game is free to play, but players can make in-game micropayments to buy “gold” that can be used for things like camouflage, premium tanks, and speeding up experience progression.

Adam began playing WOT 6 months ago, along the way spending about €500 (about $650) for in-game gold. All was generally well until he was notified in late January that his account was permanently suspended for “using additional software in the game... without participating actively in order to accumulate experience and credits.” In other words, he was accused of “botting,” using software to cheat. The decision to ban him, he was told, was final. His only option, if he wanted to continue playing, was to have his account “wiped” meaning the game experience he had accumulated would be deleted and much of the money he had spent would be wasted.

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