Do NOT Try to Play It: The Gory World of the Blue Whale Challenge
(The past few weeks have seen a spate of incidents all linked to the sinister ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ game. In the light of these incidents, The Quint is reposting this article, which was first published on 2 August 2017)
A Blue Whale. A Quiet House. A Silent House. A Sea of Whales. Wake Me Up at 4:20 am.
No, I haven’t lost coherence. These are the various names of the Blue Whale Challenge, best described as an internet 'game’ wherein takers of the challenge are assigned a curator to guide them through and enforce 50 steps of self-harm – the last being killing yourself to win.
The Blue Whale Challenge originated and spread in Russia in 2013, and over 130 teen suicides have been reportedly linked to the challenge across the world. However, no concrete evidence linking the two has been found. And even though Russia claims to have done everything to curb this online menace and made arrests, perhaps it is too little, too late, since ‘phonies’ have now taken the place of the original curators to carry forward this trend.
Russian social media platform, VKontate.com, is where it all begins. Curators of the game skulk through the platform looking for at-risk teens who have either shown suicidal tendencies or have expressed a morbid curiosity for the game
One theory says the game references to blue whales who commit suicide by getting beached. The steps include seemingly harmless actions like “wake up at 4:20 am”, “listen to music they send you” to more disturbing ones like “doing a lot of cuts on you”, and “sit down on the ledge of the roof”. Another theory says the ‘whale’ is the curator who doles out the next task after receiving photographic evidence of the previous one being completed.
While these are the standard steps of the game, the twisted phoney curators who have stepped in often change the tasks to include even weirder, more grotesque tasks like “carve F666 into your boobs”.
While to a well-adjusted adult or mature teen, these tasks obviously won’t stick, keep in mind that curators are older people who prey on pre-teens or really young teenagers. They threaten to kill these kids' loved ones by making them believe they have details of their friends and families, and force them into continuing the game. Then, as the kids go further, these ‘curators’ gain access to damaging secrets and pictures which they could use as blackmail should the child try to back out.
To a child who is depressed or suicidal, these threats can seem very real, especially after performing some of the first 49 steps of self-harm. The curators are basically sadists who abuse already at-risk children. Gradually the challenges gets darker and darker, till the young players feel suicide is their only option to get out of this game... and life.
There is a clear connection to marijuana culture throughout the game, as seen by the many references to 4/20 or 4:20 am. “Blue Whale” also happens to be a slang for a big hit of marijuana after which one can’t stop coughing. The players are sent electronic music with noises made by whales in distress and scratching and screaming sounds.
It’s only an illusion that once you begin playing, you can’t leave. Nor do the curators have the means to actually harm your family and friends. If you simply delete your account in the middle of playing the game, they have no way to reach you. Until now, there have been no reports of any Blue Whale ‘virtual threats’ being played out in the real world.
Find the Curators, Report the Content
If you find yourself on the outside of this internet sink-hole wanting to help, here is what you can do.
If you find "curators” responding to posts by teens asking to play the game, go to their profiles and see if you can find at least one piece of evidence linking them to the game. Usually, there will be some sort of description like #i_am_blue_whale or imagery of self-harm and violence. Report them immediately.
If you stumble across ‘suicide groups’ or communities where people are asking to be found by curators, report the group. Additionally, you can send the link of these communities/curators to Facebook groups like BlueWhale Game Hunters who seek out these perpetrators and see to it that they are blocked.
On Other Social Media
People are now taking to other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, without a clear understanding that the game only works on VK.com. If you see people tweeting out #helpmedie, #curatorfindme, #F57, #i_am_whale, #bluewhalechallenge and so on, treat it as a cry for help. Flag it on Twitter as “Abusive or Harmful” and try to reach out to the person kindly.
Recognising the threat, Instagram has already applied a pre-content warning when terms such as #Bluewhale or #Iambluewhale are searched for. Even though the rules require you to send your curator a photo, many teenagers are taking to Instagram to post pictures of challenges they complete, as a cry for attention. Report these accounts and posts as “Inappropriate for putting others at risk”, and reach out to players suggesting resources for mental health help and suicide prevention helplines.
What to Do if You Want to Play The Game
With the recent increase in the game’s popularity, especially in India, unfortunately morbid curiosity has gotten the best of many youngsters who have come forward asking to play the game.
If you find yourself curious or the idea of self-harm gaming appeals to you, I encourage you to seek help.
Don’t do it. It doesn’t end well.
If your mental health is even slightly precocious, the risk is too big to take, since the game only ends in death.
You can reach out to anyone of these suicide prevention hotlines across India, several of which are affiliated to NGOs who provide mental health counselling. Life may seem pointless and exhausting at times, especially as a teenager, but I can assure you it’s not worth ending over a series of chat messages from a predator who has a kink for driving people to their deaths. You’re so much better than that.