Troll deletes 11-year-old's Destiny characters
"Henry has learned his lesson the hard way."
"All the viewers that are watching, this is a glitch to get your characters above 20, I guess," 11-year-old Henry Kramer told his viewers on Twitch.
Destiny was Henry's favourite game. He played online with his school friends in the evenings and had poured countless hours into Bungie's online space shooter since he had received a PlayStation 4 for Christmas.
Henry had not one, but three Destiny characters - one for each of the game's character classes. His Warlock was level 31 - just a few in-game materials away from the current level cap. He also had a level 26 Titan and was currently working on levelling his 23 rank Hunter.
"I know a glitch to quickly level your character," he had been told.
Destiny is full of glitches. Gaming the game - "cheesing" - has become part of the Destiny experience, a way of gaining an edge against its randomly-awarded loot system. New strategies spread virally - often vocally, from one randomly-matched player to another - or via discussion boards such as r/Destiny. Keeping up with the latest techniques has become a game in itself, with the community sharing tips and trying to keep one step ahead of developer Bungie.
So when Henry heard about a new glitch, he was eager to see it in action. He told his Twitch viewers that he was giving control of his game to a friend - PSN user KirmitTHEfrog. This was someone that had contacted Henry in the past, an online friend of a real-life friend that Henry had played with and who had earned his trust. Such is the way Destiny friends are added.
The fifth grader, from California, was unsure of how to use SharePlay - the PlayStation 4's method of letting someone play your console over the internet as if you had passed your controller to them. But his new friend talked him through the process, gaining access to Henry's game, then telling Henry to go grab something - to get up and take his attention away from what was about to happen.
The user quickly logged out to the game's main menu and moved the game's cursor to hover over Henry's collection of characters. Level 31 Warlock - deleted. Level 26 Titan - deleted. Accessing Henry's final character, the level 23 Hunter, the user logged back in and set to work on the character's top-level exotic weaponry.
It was at this point that Henry saw what was happening and, aghast, realised too late that he had been trolled. Still streaming via Twitch, Henry hit the power button on his console, turning it off and cutting the user's connection.
"They [had] played together for a while and the troll earned Henry's trust," Henry's mum Courtney told Eurogamer. "Enough to promise Henry that he could help him if Henry gave him control of his player."
The Twitch stream continued, as Henry powered his console back on to discover the full extent of the damage.
"I didn't want that gun anyway," he is heard telling the troll, before Destiny's main menu loads and he realises he has lost his two high-level characters as well.
"As you can see in the video, he was devastated," Courtney continues. The footage ends with the 11-year-old audibly sobbing - it's not easy to listen to.
"As Henry's parents, we are constantly reminding him to be careful, to never share your personal information, to always be on the lookout. But the truth is, no matter how many times a parent says this to a kid, when you're in the actual situation, it's easier to trust people you think are your friends because someone you actually know in real life vouches for them."
Destiny is rated PEGI 16 in the UK and holds a Teen ESRB rating in the US - which denotes content "generally suitable for ages 13 and up". We have asked about the suitability of the game and will update if Courtney responds.
Courtney passed the footage - uploaded to YouTube - to Bungie in the hopes that the developer might be able to restore Henry's progress.
Sadly, the developer could not help - Bungie has an established policy on such matters that it didn't want to break. And because the user had been legitimately given control of Henry's console, no wrongdoing had technically occurred.
"If you Share Play with someone, the viewer in control of your game has access to your gear, items, and character," Bungie's FAQ on using the feature reminds users. "This can result in dire consequences. Please note, Bungie cannot recover deleted characters, items, and gear.
"Please exercise caution when using Share Play with strangers."
But Bungie did publicise the incident - by including the footage in the studio's Weekly Update.
"We never expected anyone but Bungie to see the footage - then they posted it to their weekly newsletter, and the internet exploded," Courtney continued. "Now we're trying to sort through the post-viral emotions of people hating on Henry, calling me a bad parent for letting him play this game, that we're stupid..."
Embedding the footage in last week's regular Destiny newsletter, Bungie reminded users to remain vigilant.
"Bungie has some ideas for how we can make regrettable deletions like these less permanent," community manager Deej commented. "While we plan the right course of action (and build out new game features), protect your Guardians from sleazy online jerks."
The game's community has been more sympathetic.
"Wow, watched the video of the troll," Bungie.net user StealthNine commented. "I'm not a real emotional guy but as a gamer I felt his pain when he saw all his hard work was deleted!"
The comment has now had 2700 replies, with many users requesting that KirmitTHEfrog be banned.
"Bungie TRANSFER ALL EXOTIC and LEGENDARY equipment from the KERMIT DOUCHE and give to the kid!" StealthNine continued. "JUSTICE IS JUSTICE. #KarmaForKirmit."
But there has since been confusion over who was actually using the troll's account at the time.
Other users have asked Bungie to transfer high-level items from their own accounts to help Henry regain his levels.
Full sets of armour from each of the game's raids and an armoury of Destiny's best guns have been pledged - but again, in-game item transfers are something that Bungie will not bend the rules to make happen. Regardless, such offers have not gone unnoticed.
"The community has rallied in support of Henry, which has been overwhelming," Courtney explained. "Developers of the game have messaged, offering to play and help him rank up.
"Henry has learned his lesson the hard way - the only way to learn. I am grateful to everyone who has offered support, as it's really made a difference to Henry, who is back playing the game trying to rank his characters back to where they were. Players are really helping him do it more quickly, so the overall outcome has been one of positivity."
For his part, Henry has no plans to stop playing.
"My friends have been helping me do stuff," he told Eurogamer, "and I actually completed Crota's End on hard mode and got the [raid-exclusive hand cannon] Word of Crota."
And if Henry could talk to the user again, he would only ask him why he did it.
"Why did you do this? It's not fun for us, so why do you enjoy it?"