Yesterday, Path of Exile developer Grinding Gear Games and its community were the victims of an extremely asinine hoax. In a thread on the Legal Advice subreddit, a disabled person said they were banned from Path of Exile for using a macro to help them play. That post sparked discussion and outrage that quickly spread throughout Reddit and social media.
"I can't use one hand and some fingers on the other after an industrial accident," a redditor named poelegalthrowaway00 wrote in their now-deleted post. Here's a link to an image of that thread. They go on to explain that they can't play Path of Exile because the game requires players to frequently use potions to survive, which are bound to number keys and need to be pressed every few seconds (though that changes depending on your specific character build). "I physically can't press 4 keys every few seconds so I use a macro that automatically does it for me."
The issue apparently at play here was that using these kinds of automated programs is against Path of Exile's—and most multiplayer games'—terms of service. Macros that automate certain tasks, like when to trigger a healing potion, can be used to undermine the game and gain a competitive edge. In more elaborate cases, macros can be used to play a game without any human input, like in World of Warcraft's infamous gold-farming bots.
But using a macro to assist with a disability is a very different territory. Like a lot of ARPGs, there's a lot of clicking and button pressing in Path of Exile, and the game moves at an extremely fast pace with a lot of action on screen. Aside from a few basics like being able to rebind keys, there aren't a ton of built-in options that help make Path of Exile more accessible to a bigger audience. Some players even go out of their way to theorycraft specific character builds designed for disabled players.
n the thread, poelegalthrowaway00 explained they were banned for using the macro and was curious to know if they had any legal recourse against Grinding Gear since they supposedly had spent "hundreds of dollars" on the game's microtransactions. Naturally, the post quickly drew the sympathies of other redditors who upvoted the thread to r/legaladvice's front page. It then spilled over onto Twitter and other social media platforms. Players were upset. An innocent player had gotten caught up in the machinery of some automated system and was unjustly banned for it, and people wanted to see a happy ending.
When I saw the thread, I contacted Grinding Gear Games CEO and founder Chris Wilson to see if poelegalthrowaway00's ban was being investigated. Wilson told me that the studio was looking into the issue but couldn't find any cases of a player being banned that matched the few details given by poelegalthrowaway00. "We're curious about what happened here because banning for this is not in-line with our internal policies and we can't find any evidence of it occurring," Wilson said.
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