Is ‘Blue Whale’ actually a game?

A few days ago, I received a call from my father at around 12.30 am. This is not a very common hour for my father to ring me up since the time I moved to Mumbai. With a hint of curiosity and honestly, a little bit of anxiety, I picked up the call. His voice sounded frantic as he asked if I was doing fine. As I assured him that I was in perfect shape, I inquired about the uneasiness in his voice and the sudden reason to call me up so late, given that I had spoken to him just about an hour ago. Apparently, one of his colleagues had told him about the ‘Blue Whale Game’ and how the lethal online ‘game’ was leaving unsuspecting teenagers dead in its wake. It took me around 30 minutes to make him understand that I was not in any way playing or have been associated with it. Given that my job revolves around all things gaming, it took an additional 15 minutes to settle my father down and tell him that it is not actually a ‘game.’ I felt the need to write this piece as it is not just my father, but my peers and contacts from numerous fields have been asking the same question or airing similar concerns. Firstly, ‘Blue Whale’ is not a game; it is more of a challenge, something like the Ice Bucket Challenge. While the latter had the motive to make people aware of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and raise funds for the same , ‘Blue Whale’ has a more sinister and lethal motive. Fabricated by Philipp Budeikin, who has since been arrested in Russia, the Blue Whale challenge is a series of malicious tasks targeted at vulnerable teens. The series of tasks are replete with physical and psychological brutality which concludes with urging the unfortunate victim by asking him to take his/her life. One of the tasks is apparently etching a Blue Whale image on your arm with a sharp object and hence the name. Now to set things straight, it is not a game or an application that you can download from the Google PlayStore or the Apple App Store, neither will shutting down the Xbox or PlayStation be of any use, nor is it a virus or a malware which can be blocked and destroyed by anti-virus programs. So what do you do to keep yourself or people away from it? The internet is a great place for a lot of reasons, but the golden rule from real life is applicable to it too: ‘Dont talk to strangers.’ However, that is not even vaguely possible in today’s world of social media explosion. But it’s not necessary to share private or intimate information with strangers online. If you are facing issues in life, talking about it to unfamiliar intruders over the internet might not be the best idea. This should somewhat be the veil you need in order stay away from trouble. While Blue Whale has spread its corrupted fins in India recently, the phenomenon has been rampant throughout Europe for a while now. Even though the creator has been arrested, the game has conjured an entity of its own and the authorities are already on alert while news of kids falling victim to the game are still popping up throughout India almost on a daily basis. Once the unsuspecting victims share their information and enter the series of challenges they are mostly overwhelmed with the paranoia of what might happen to them or their family (in some cases) if they don’t complete the challenge. The so called admins of the game have reportedly outright threatened the participants with ghastly consequences to their near and dear ones if they don’t go on with the task. Hence, they get trapped in Blue Whale web of deception. Recently, the Delhi High Court has issued a notice to internet providers and the government to take down the online links to Blue Whale and sought a progress report on the same. This came after a spate  of incidents all over the country made headlines. My point being, gaming as an industry or an activity is finally gaining some limelight in the country and hence it needed to be made clear that the now-familiar challenge is not a game. The games biz has been struggling to find its feet in India for long and is finally taking baby steps to get included in the mainstream and hence a misconception about the challenge being a game will only further trip it back to may be fall into an abyss. Initially people even searched the PlayStore thinking it was game and down-voted the Blue Whale Simulator game instead. You see where I am going with this? You can always be careful and warn your friends and family not to try the challenge in any case, but be rest assured no one can sneak in and download the so called game and play it. Or force you into getting lured into it.