The dangers of the Blue Whale Challenge.
I’ve always wanted to be a pro-gamer since childhood. Be it gaming on the PC or a cheap rip off of the PlayStation called the PolyStation. Heck, I’m even one of those who has tattoos about gaming. It’s been the longest running dream of mine to be a pro at gaming and ‘wreck all noobs,’ if you will. But what happened recently has just broken my heart.
Gaming for life
Blue Whale is an online game that has probably ruined internet games for everyone. For those who don’t know, The Blue Whale Challenge is an internet game where there are admins that ‘farm’ for their victims online. In 2013, a psychology student, Philipp Budeikin was expelled from a university in Russia. He claims to have made this game and the only reason he created this game was to - “clean” the society by pushing to suicide those he deemed as having no value.
Blue Whale took its first victim in 2015 when 1 teenager allegedly committed suicide after listening to the admin of the game. The trend started rising when one journalist wrote about this phenomenon which made the game even popular. In 2016, 16 other teenage girls committed suicide, post which Budeikin was arrested and pled guilty for inciting the suicides. This created a massive wave of panic in Russia and probably all around the world.
The 21-year-old who thought he was 'cleaning' up society. Image source: asia96.com
Last year, when I heard about this, I did try to play the game as well. There were a few things that one needs to do to be a part of the challenge. I had done all my research and was thoroughly prepared not to go ahead after a certain step when self-harm needed to be inflicted. Eventually, I didn’t end up playing the game because none of the admins got in touch with me to take it ahead. Unfortunately, not all are aware of this and we may have just lost one youth to this game. And this is what we need to fix.
It’s really easy to find such a dangerous challenge online
To help prevent more such incidents, I want to do as much as I can. So here I’m noting down the different levels in the Blue Whale Challenge, and what to look out for (and avoid).
There are 50 levels in the game. The first few start off like any other cute internet challenge. Some of them may be like waking up at odd hours, watching a horror movie alone, listening to a certain type of music, etc. But once a participant is hooked to it, the ‘real’ Blue Whale Challenge begins. There are levels that involve self-mutilation, leading to the eventual suicide as the last level.
Gaming as a sub-culture or a hobby was just coming around the fact that gaming doesn’t promote violence, and I do consider this as a game. People used to say if you’re playing FIFA, for example, it doesn’t make you a professional footballer. And likewise, playing action games don't make you violent in real life. This one game, Blue Whale, has ruined every notion that people have about gaming in general.
Social Media platforms doing their bit
Being a gamer, I completely understand how immersive gaming can be. I’d like to quote the CEO of Electronic Arts, “Gaming is the best form of content,” and I totally agree. While playing any game you become a part of the game. Instead of the character, you’re the one in the scene. It’s taking reality to another level. But like with everything else, it’s important that you know where to draw the line. If you think there’s a 0.01% chance of becoming obsessively involved in it, DO NOT play the game.
You matter, it is okay to ask for help! Image source: narvii.com
It’s scary to think that the Blue Whale Challenge came back to life even after the inventor was arrested a year ago. Goes to show the power of the internet. And the vulnerability of young minds. With the growing power of AI, trends like the Blue Whale Challenge can be kept dormant for years and pop up suddenly, claim innocent lives and then go back to being dormant.
Anxiety and depression levels are rising in the world and games like these are just another excuse for the sufferers to inflict self-harm. It’s now that we need to do something about these internet trends, be it increasing surveillance from the cyber cell or just increasing the amount of education that we provide to the youth in schools and colleges about the dangers of gaming. Play away but play safe!
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, there are many organisations that can help you. For help contact:
AASRA: 022 2754 6669
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Mohit Yagnik
Photographs by Yash Bandi