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Microsoft Seeks Patent On Shaming Fat Gamers 553

theodp writes "A newly disclosed Microsoft patent application — Avatar Individualized by Physical Characteristic — takes aim at fat people, proposing to generate fat avatars in gaming environments for individuals whose health records indicate they're overweight, limiting their game play, and even banning them. From the patent application: 'An undesirable body weight could be reflected in an overweight or underweight appearance for the avatar. Only requisite health levels are allowed to compete in a certain competition level. A dedicated gamer could exercise for a period of time until his health indicator gadget shows a sufficiently high health/health credit in order to allow reentering the avatar environment.' Linking one's gaming avatar to one's physique, explains Microsoft, will produce healthy and virtuous behaviors in individuals. Microsoft also proposes shaping gaming experiences by using 'psychological and demographic information such as education level, geographic location, age, sex, intelligence quotient, socioeconomic class, occupation, marital/relationship status, religious belief, political affiliation, etc.'"


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Microsoft Seeks Patent On Shaming Fat Gamers

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  • by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:33PM (#30491616)

    So THAT's why we're going to have digital medical records...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:44PM (#30491836)
      I thought one idea of games was to escape various aspects of the real world, by pretending to be somebody we aren't (like a would-be ruler of the world)?. Why do we want to be dragged as ourselves into the game enviornment????
      • by Atrox666 ( 957601 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @05:04PM (#30493130)

        I used to think this until I realized that I was paying Blizzard for the simulated experience of waiting for public transportation.
        I could get a more immersive experience by putting on a troll mask and riding the subway. There are even some dialects of Chinese that sound a little like murloc. On the other hand I'd love for my IRL military training to count in call of duty.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I'd love for my IRL military training to count in call of duty

          I'd love to see someone in combat running around hopping like a rabbit wielding akimbo style shotguns, I'm sure that guy would make it home.

        • by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:35PM (#30494242) Homepage

          On the other hand I'd love for my IRL military training to count in call of duty.

          Try Operation Flashpoint. I played that with 3 of my friends (CoOp) and we struggled, replaying some missions over 7 times. Then we exchanged one of the players for an active Finnish Army Medic and blasted thru the game with only one casaulty.

      • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @05:26PM (#30493468)

        Well, I used Wii Fit to level up my rig -- I lost 20 pounds in the first two months while adding a significant amount of mass onto my arms and shoulders.

        I'm now at about 165 pounds. My peak weight 10 years ago was about 250.

        I note that Mario Kart uses your Mii info to determine what weight class you race in once you unlock yourself. That's probably enough prior art to invalidate this patent.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

          Man, someone needs to make a real-life D&D character sheet generator. Take I.Q., body fat, muscle mass, BMI, etc. into account and roll stats from that.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Actually, if you know body fat and muscle mass, BMI is kinda useless. BMI is used to estimate how 'fat' you are (so I guess it tries to predict your body fat), but having a lot of muscle will give you a high BMI even if you are not fat. Now I'm not one of them BMI-haters, I believe it is quite useful for the average person to give an indication of how healthy their weight is, but if you have better data (body fat and muscle mass) by all means ignore BMI.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Not being yourself will be available as a future upgrade for a slight additional cost. After all escape from reality shouldn't just be free, right? Think of how that would cut into the profits of drug deale... errr drug manufacturers... and the makers of fine alcohol.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:55PM (#30492018)

      funny you should mention that. When I read the summary my main response was something along the lines of it being impossible to implement even if the stupid patent was approved simply because:


      • by binarylarry ( 1338699 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:00PM (#30492116)

        Why do you say that, fatty?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by terryducks ( 703932 )
          Well for one; HIPPA regulations (in the US).

          Tis a slippery slope down to MegaInsCorp refuses to let you buy that bag of Doritos. The car didn't start as the CORP tells me I need to lose a few pounds.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm just going to leave this here...

      http://www.healthvault.com/ [healthvault.com]

      This is by Microsoft.

  • It's a Free Market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TrippTDF ( 513419 ) <hiland.gmail@com> on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:34PM (#30491630)
    if Microsoft does this, then the Playstation becomes the console for the large.
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:46PM (#30491870) Homepage

      I can just imagine the slogan: "Escape your depressing real life into a matching world!"

      Logging on...

      "Our records show that you are an overweight high-school educated 36-year old mail in Akron, Ohio with below-average IQ, part-time employment at a Wal-Mart with an annual take-home of $16k who is a single Baptist Republican."

      Creating avatar... done.

      "Congratulations! Explore our virtual world with your new avatar -- an overweight, high-school educated 36-year old male with below-average IQ."

      Your avatar will spawn in: Virtual Akron Ohio
      You start with the following items: Bible, Pat Robertson DVD, "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin
      You start with: 0 gold
      You earn: 7 gold per hour
      For doing the following task: Checking groceries at the Virtual Akron Wal-Mart.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Volante3192 ( 953645 )

        And you spend your spare time... playing a game as a virtual virtual wal-mart stocker.

      • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:26PM (#30492578)

        You earn: 7 gold per hour
        For doing the following task: Checking groceries at the Virtual Akron Wal-Mart.

        Not for long. I'm certain there are Chinese gamers who will do it for half that much.
        Welcome to the long term unemployed quest!

  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:35PM (#30491660) Homepage Journal

    prior art exists, now Ballmer has to grow a stupid mustasche, chew carpets, and march on Poland.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      prior art exists, now Ballmer has to chew carpets.

      Hitler was a lesbian?

  • I wouldn't piss off this fat kid... he has a power glove AND a Max controller. TURBO'S, FTW!

  • Ah, the NES zapper. That thing was awesome. Is it sad that I can still burn an entire afternoon playing duck hunt when the mood strikes?

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      I loved controlling the duck while my little sister was shooting. ;) I'd usually hide it in the tree.

  • Big government wasn't enough, now the corporations step in.
    • by Improv ( 2467 )

      Culture has always done this. It's part of being human.

      • yeah because some people in "Culture" don't know how to mind their own damn business and worry about themselves.
        Seriously I hate people who tell people how to live their lives.
        Do these people have all the problems in their lives solved to the point where they feel the need to lecture others?
        Do they have all their bills paid? Perfect Driving Record? Perfect Health? Perfect Everything?
        Live and let live, let sleeping dogs lie, etc, etc, etc
  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:36PM (#30491694)

    ...on a fantastically lean, mean & slim Microsoft Windows OS?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My guess would be that they want this for the XBox 360 to go along with Project Natal.

    • Only if we also require operating systems to show a splash screen with a person as correspondingly fat as the operating system itself. Welcome to FattyOS!
  • Brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:37PM (#30491706)
    Brilliant idea. Take people who don't measure up to everyone's expectations, and heap shame on them in the one place where they can take a break from it all. Microsoft should also file for a patent on a method to lose money.
  • HA! (Score:4, Funny)

    by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:39PM (#30491732)

    Ha! I have been shaming and banning fat people for years now. Where is my patent?

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:39PM (#30491748)
    Does this mean I won't be able to play as a 36-24-26 blonde woman anymore? If Microsoft starts actually checking players appearance and gender, I predict there will be absolutely no "hot chick" avatars in the Microsoft MMORPGs! Is this "sausage fest" environment really the result they are looking for?
  • So, Wii makes you swing the controller and get exercise or nags you to load up wii fit and exercise. Xbox (presumably) will now force you to exercise in order to play. Does this mean that the Playstation will become the system of the obese? I'll bet some marketing company is already working on the ads...
  • I'm glad the patent office is spending time on this rather that working on useless things like new life saving drugs...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The patent office doesn't invent any new drugs. That's like saying the post office is wasting its time on Cosmopolitan.
      • The Post Office gets paid to deliver Cosmo, enough to hire additional personal. Junk mail is a net profit for the PO. (unlike regular mail) Your letter to aunt Jane is in effect subsidized by "useless" mail.

        With the Patent Office, like most government agencies, any money taken in goes to the general pool. They can't use the extra money from frivolous patent applications to hire more/better examiners.

        So yes, every frivolous patent takes resources away from the important work.
    • Re:Patent Office (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:52PM (#30491968)

      Thats right. Nothing says progress like granting a extortionate monopoly on a drug that could save millions, if only they could afford it.

      • Re:Patent Office (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @05:10PM (#30493202) Homepage

        Nope. We just assume that taking away the multimillion-dollar monopoly incentive won't have any effect on pharmaceutical developments and the drugs available (outside of patents) for your children's generation, or even your generation when you retire in 40 years. No effect whatsoever.

        I mean, come on, dude, is a little bit of a balanced perspective on a nuanced issue too much to ask?

    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      you can't Patent a drug - only the process to manufacture it (which has to be FDA approved too).

      the reason you wait for generic drugs is that even after a drug has passed the FDA if you where to make it using a different process then you would still have to go through FDA approval for it - might as well come up with something different.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Sometimes patents like this one can serve the public interest merely by reducing the likelihood of bad ideas like this one from being put into general use through fines and legal action.

  • A game would have to be pretty compelling otherwise to make the risk of being banned for poor health do anything other than dissuade larger gamers from playing all together.

    Linking one's gaming avatar to one's physique, explains Microsoft, will produce healthy and virtuous behaviors in individuals.

    Most likely it will reduce the number of people playing any game with this technology in favor of competitor's games and as such is pretty much doomed to fail.

  • From TFA: (Score:5, Informative)

    by jockeys ( 753885 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:44PM (#30491830) Journal
    "The physiological data can be gleaned from a third party health data collection repository"

    As someone who worked in the healthcare industry for a number of years, this seems like a HIPAA violation lawsuit waiting to happen.
  • WTF??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:45PM (#30491850) Homepage

    Microsoft also proposes shaping gaming experiences by using 'psychological and demographic information such as education level, geographic location, age, sex, intelligence quotient, socioeconomic class, occupation, marital/relationship status, religious belief, political affiliation, etc.'

    Where, exactly, does Microsoft think it's going to get this stuff from? The summary actually makes reference to health records.

    Heck, I'm not sure most government agencies should have access to most of that information. Microsoft sure as fsck has no business with it.

    Welcome to the dystopian future, fat boy. This is actually kind of scary.


    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      well one thing i could see them pushing this patent onto would be the use of VR for post rehab counculing.

      http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/07/16/db.secondlifetherapy/index.html [cnn.com]

      the rehab unit would have access to the health records and we can assume consent (in the fine print) to do this as a way of keeping people straight and not delusional.

      It sounds stupid - but so does Avatars in rehab - or Dances with Smurfs.

      But this isn't completely point less as if tweeter and Facebook hasn't taught us already too many peo

  • The precise point of video games is to be some other than yourself for awhile. If they start restricting people based on their physical appearance, how long until we start using other biometric data? The major appeal of video games is shattered when we lose that... who wants to play a video game as themselves?

  • by Akido37 ( 1473009 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:47PM (#30491882)
    So I want to play games, so I have to exercise. Exercise releases chemicals causing pleasure in my brain.

    Eventually, I enjoy the exercise more than video games. I stop buying new games, and EA/Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo go out of business, and thousands of people lose their jobs.

    Thanks a LOT, Microsoft!!
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:47PM (#30491884)
    I drive through the Microsoft's campus almost daily. One of the funniest things I've seen (I have a rather twisted sense of humor) is all the Microsoft employees trying to waddle across the too short and too frequent pedestrian crosswalk signals that Redmond configured.
  • I really had to stop for a minute and double-check the posting date. I thought that I certainly would see an April 1 designation somewhere. This is just too sad. Now we not only have nanny states, but we also will have nanny softare companies.

    Logon Process

    1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del

    2. Enter Logon ID and password

    3. Step on the scale

    4. If weigh is a healthy value, process logon; if not, recommend a gym membership (all in the name of keeping employer-paid health insurance costs down).
  • NO SMOKING NEAR MY XBOX 720! You will void the warranty with their built in smoke detector!
  • Can I ? (Score:3, Funny)

    by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:50PM (#30491946)

    Can I be the first to heap scorn on the fat kid in the photo.

    You fat bastard, you fat bastard, you ate all the pie !
    (And a bucket of chicken too by the look of it).

    Why do people allow their kids to turn into such bloaters ? And don't give me any of that "oh it's genetic crap". There is no DNA strand that codes for "being a fat little piggy who Mommy overfeeds in the hope you'll amount to something more than your Father when you grow up".

    I blame Mario ... come on, he eats pizza all day and has a right paunch on him too ... what kind of a roll model is that ? (Note the deliberate misspelling of roll, thats a pune or play on words, that is). And Sonic too, I mean he was so fat, after 5 seconds of running he starting rolling head over heels.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KarmaMB84 ( 743001 )
      high fructose corn syrup

      Suppresses sensations of fullness which would normally prevent overeating. In the United States the stuff is in EVERYTHING that would normally contain natural sugar. It has also been linked to diabetese or at least the same symptoms of diabetese.
  • Imagine how this will work.

    Overweight people will be banned from a game if they don't 'get fit'. Those who really want to play will then 'get to it' and get in shape.

    Of course with all that exercise and new activity they are participating in will slowly bring them to realize there is something else to life then online avatar based games (with very shallow user access requirements). Slowly they will turn away from such games and begin doing things that are more active and fit in with their new health consci

  • MSFT probably realizes that they are right behind fast food chains in being targeted for law suits claiming they are liable for making people fat. By making such a feature available to say, parents for example, they may make themselves less susceptible to suit. I highly doubt MSFT is just looking to shame people.
  • Because if they don't, they may not have any players at all.
  • What an intriguing way to wipe out virtually all computer/console gaming by your own company!
    I had never thought that anyone would patent business suicide.
    Way to go Microsoft!

    Can't wait to see Balmers avatar running around with his head stuck up his backside, that's going to be a total roflmao moment.
    I promise to take screenshots.
  • Come on people, are you dense? The idea is to create a game where success in the game is linked to personal health improvement in real life. If you don't like that sort of concept, don't play that particular game. I have no idea where you get the idea that this would be applied to all online environments.
  • by paulsnx2 ( 453081 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:57PM (#30492054)

    You have to insure that the fitness measurements of an individual actually belong to the individual. Haven't read their patent, but I can't see how a game can reasonably do this without some sort of biometric keys.

    And what are they going to do about people with medical conditions that might preclude exercise or normal weight? Are they really going to kick people off off the game with cancer because they have no control over their water retention?

    All in all, this is a remarkably dumb idea.

    It might be better suited for a dating site, using some mechanism to insure that the Avatar for an individual accurately represented basic physical aspects of an individual while preserving mostly their anonymity. Maybe use a Video camera plus some other hardware to scan the individual both to identify them upon logging in and updating their avatar to reflect any changes to their weight/height/BMI/hairline etc.?

    Please consider this *publishing* of this idea, and as a result *invalidating any patent* that might build off this stupid Microsoft idea.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:09PM (#30492280) Homepage Journal

    you and your obsessions. fat people are not discriminated against or humiliated in any way in my country. the country is turkey. and i have never yet seen any other country nearby, leave aside any european countries in which overweight people were ridiculed, belittled, bullied or discriminated against in any respect.

    i very much have the idea that you people are so obsessed with your own socioeconomical circumstances, and so many bullshit propaganda being fed into you that you fail to see a world outside yours with different ideas and inclinations exist.

    • by mckinnsb ( 984522 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:41PM (#30494300)

      You mean the reason why Europe has fewer fat people is because europeans don't treat the obese like fucking monsters? No way! Thats crazy talk.

      I have long believed that is the American obsession with image and sexuality that has aggravated the problem of obesity. Nearly every 'good' cure to obesity (omitting dangerous diet pills or starvation diets) involves social interaction of some kind. Lampooning people who suffer from obesity only furthers their isolation and in no way is productive towards recovery.

      I was an overweight, acne-ridden, isolated kid all through middle school - but it was the social interactions I made through multiplayer gaming on the internet (specifically, MUDS - yeah... mega dork) that gave me the confidence to approach people in real life (high school), and later lose weight with their encouragement (senior year).

      Also, isn't there a beauty to anonymity? Do we really need to see everyone's physical appearance to judge if we want to kill some mobs and grab some lootz with them? I personally would prefer not to. If I'm looking for women, I go to a supermarket, mall, or bar. On the net, my intent is otherwise focused, and I don't need to see what my digital comrade looks like to figure out if I'm having a good time playing my game. That much is usually implied.

  • by Skraut ( 545247 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:19PM (#30492468) Journal

    One of the most touching things I ever had on Xbox Live was when I received a message I from a friend who always seemed to be on, but not in the previous 2 weeks. The message was from his mother thanking me, and everyone on his friends list for being his friend and telling us he had passed away. She continued to tell us he had Downs Syndrome, and at 21 years of age had passed away from complications of it. She told us that we, his virtual friends were the only friends he really seemed to have, because we didn't know about, or judge him because of his condition.

    Would this system have deprived him of the one joy he had in his life because he couldn't run the hundred meter dash, or didn't match up with some other physical standard?

  • by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:38PM (#30492738) Journal

    You computer will now display the Blueberry Ice Cream of Death.....

  • by stoicfaux ( 466273 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @05:57PM (#30493812)

    1. "Everyone" "knows" that video games are unhealthy and are the reason why kids are fat nowadays.

    2. Tell the politicians that you've developed a way for video games to help prevent kids from getting fat.

    3. Tell the parents that you've developed a way for their computer/video games to *automatically" help prevent their kids from getting fat.

    4. Get a "Save the children!" law passed requiring that this Anti-Fat-Kid-Rights-Management software be mandatory.

    5. You have a patent on the Anti-Fat-Kids-Rights-Management idea.

    6. Profit from the monopoly.

  • by gothzilla ( 676407 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:18PM (#30494038)

    to see Stephen Hawking's avatar. I wonder if he gets a free mount.

  • by peterofoz ( 1038508 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @08:27PM (#30495246) Homepage Journal
    You've got to be kidding. So why stop with heath? Let's include sexual preferences and orientation, religious and social affiliations, and stereotypes based on where you live.
  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by someone1234 ( 830754 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @08:30PM (#30495270)

    But Ballmer is damn fat as well. Why stop at games? They should deny access to all services for fat people, starting with HIM.

  • by John Pfeiffer ( 454131 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @09:49PM (#30495716) Homepage

    I have to wonder what stake Microsoft has in teen suicide and school shootings that they'd think this is a good idea. A bit of a leap you say? Let me lay it out for you.

    Fat kid gets home from school, decides to play some games to put the bullshit he had to deal with at school behind him... Too bad his avatar is fat too! No escape from the ridicule and stupid crap! Or even worse, the same people who harass him at school start harassing him online, and then start harassing him at school ABOUT his fat avatar! BONUS POINTS!

    So, depending on the kid's psychological makeup there are three possible outcomes:

    1. Nothing at all. (Unlikely even for the well-adjusted.)
    2. Suicide. (Probably the more likely of the three.)
    3. School shooting. (Given access to firearms and having pre-existing psychological issues, I'd have to go with 'yep'.)

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes