As anyone who’s attended a child’s birthday party knows, putting a dozen kids together can turn even doe-eyed angels into out-of-control brats. So what happens when you put thousands in a virtual world and give them tons of incentive to steal Mom’s credit card? Max found out when he took a customer support job for an online PC game that shall remain nameless. It’s roughly like World Of Warcraft, but marketed to tweens. Max handles customer support issues, like payment problems and troll banning, and what he’s witnessed will make you want to grab the nearest child and give them a stern talking-to.
Kids Don’t Hesitate To Rob Their Families
Max’s game is “freemium” — that most insidious of revenue models — which means you can play for free, but if you want the cool stuff and/or wish to avoid obnoxious limitations, you have to pay. You’ve probably got a dozen such games on your phone. Kids, not being famous for their patience, are eager to take the paying route. But kids are also not known for their copious wealth — a mere allowance isn’t going to cut it, and our short-sighted government made it illegal to offer shiny silver dimes in exchange for 12 hours of coal mining. Luckily for the freemium games industry, this problem has a solution: stealing from mom and dad.
So when you work at customer support for one of these games, as our source does, you get lots of parents calling to complain that they’re being charged for subscription services they didn’t sign up for. “And then we have to tell them, ‘Hey, you said your email is email@example.com, and we have a firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you know this person?’ ‘Oh, that’s my son!'”
The most common calls Max gets are from parents who underestimated their children’s deviousness. “One of the first calls I got was from a woman who banned her daughter from using her laptop near bedtime. And she saw that charges were being made at 11:00 pm. She wanted to know what was going on. We said that her daughter must have access to the laptop, because the IP address matched the address for other payments. And the mother started crying, saying her daughter had a gaming addiction. I didn’t know what to say. I’m like, ‘No, you just need to watch your daughter. She’s just sneaking out of bed to steal your laptop and credit card.'”
How can she possibly expect to focus in school with an unexpanded town looming over her conscience?
As you can guess, this is where the vast majority of parents insist that their little angels would never do such a thing. Always remember: Children are sociopaths:
“The ones I feel really bad for are grandparents,” says Max. “How could you steal your grandmother’s credit card? And the grandparents are always really upset. Sometimes we’ll hear a grandparent being like, ‘You sit down and you stay there! You stole my money!'” And yes, some of the stories are heartbreaking. “When I first started, a kid stole about $600 from his grandparents. It was an old woman who called us from a nursing home. I felt awful having to tell her this on the phone. I gave her the kid’s name and asked ‘Do you know who this is?’ ‘That’s my 14-year-old grandson!’ I’m thinking ‘Nooo! I’m so sorry he stole your money!'”
The whole experience has taught Max one valuable but depressing lesson: “I don’t trust children now. I wouldn’t let any near money. I wouldn’t let any see your wallet. If I see a kid that’s 12 or older, I think, ‘Oh, you probably do horrible things online.'”