Caution: This article is not for the faint-hearted.
Unlike the advisory note mentioned above, Blue Whale did not come with a strong enough statutory warning and that ensued the chaos around the hard-hitting sensation the game went on to become.
The Blue Whale game or The Blue Whale Challenge as it is called is a deadly social media phenomenon that came to prominence thanks to the dark side of social media and internet. The challenge essentially targets vulnerable pre-teens or teenagers. Once into the challenge or the “game”, participants are made to complete 50 tasks. Now this doesn’t sound as sensational as the news it made, does it? The catch is in the kind of tasks the participants are made to do with the final being the most important and also the deadliest (quite literally) – the final task asks the participant to commit suicide. The successful completion of the final task i.e. committing suicide signifies that the participant won which is not the case.
If reports are to be believed, this “bloody” game originated in Russia debuting in the year 2013 and gaining public attention in 2016. Eversince, the game has claimed lives of over 130 boys and girls all over the world.
Reports of the existence of a particular app or website to play this game surfaced on the news circuits. However, it turns out that there really isn’t a specific place to play this game. Interested participants simply make use of social media to reach out to the “Whales” or the “Curators” of the game. On searching, thousands of posts were found that used social media hashtags like “WhaleFindMe etc. Game administrators then filter and pick people who they think would be the most vulnerable and start a chat with them. Prospective participants are asked if they’re prepared to take up the challenge because there is no going back. They’re also told they’d have to take their own life at the end. That explains the name which is derived from the fact that a specific breed of blue whales harbours suicidal tendencies within them. Curious souls and those ready for the challenge take it up but they later find themselves being psychologically manipulated into continuing with the tasks and thus ensues the game. But you might ask – what if one decides to quit halfway? What worst can it do? Apparently, the administrators have custody of a lot of personal information and those who refuse to follow orders or try to quit are bombarded with threats of possible harm to friends, family or even murder.
The game is structured to have 50 tasks spread out over a span of 50 days with the last, final and “winning” task being suicide. Each participant is given a task on daily basis, with some being allotted in advanced or some given on the same day to do. The intensity and difficulty increase with each question with the initial ones being simple like drawing a whale on a paper to the later ones subsequently becoming bloody and dangerous. They incline to self-mutilation with tasks asking people to draw a whale on the hand, poking oneself with needles, marking multiple scars with blades or anything sharp. Strict invigilation follows each person who is also expected to present photographic or video proof for each completed task/challenge.
The deadly tasks
The first and foremost rule to play this game is to never talk about it with anyone. Daily tasks include tasks like listening to depressing and gory content online, listening to saddening genres of music, waking up at odd hours, watching horror movies, among others. The participant is also expected to wake up at 4:20 am every day which makes the brain tired and more susceptible to take and follow orders. She or he also has to introduce her/himself to the community.
‘The Blue Whale Challenge’ was started by Philipp Budeikin, the 22-year-old creator of the game. After making online contact with people, he would usually skype with impressionable teenagers in order to decide who would play the game successfully. He would ask them to watch gory and depressing content online and then make a pick about the ones who were weak enough to be easily manipulated.
As stated in an interview, the 22-years old created the game with an intention to cleanse society by provoking people who think they are not worthy of being alive to commit suicide. “There are people – and there is biological waste. Those who do not represent any value for society. Who cause or will cause only harm to society. I was cleaning our society of such people”, Budeikin said during the interview with Saint Petersburg News.
Revealing his thoughts and explaining his tactics of manipulation, Budeikin said he pushed teenagers to suicide intentionally and that “At some point, it is necessary to push the teenager not to sleep at night. [In this way, their] psyche becomes more susceptible to influence”.
He was sentenced to 3 years in jail for inciting Russian youths to kill themselves. While he denied reports that he and his game were directly responsible for over 130 deaths saying others had communicated with him and committed suicide later, he did claim to be directly influential for 17 deaths. In another shocking revelation, he said that there were 28 more people ready to take their lives. Disturbingly, Budeikin received love letters in jail after his arrest from teenage girls that were under his influence.
The internet is replete with many sorry stories of teenagers who fell prey to this enraging challenge, who did not get help when they needed to. After a series of reports of deaths all over the world, the first case of death in India was reported on August 1, 2017, when a 14-year-old boy from Mumbai jumped off the terrace of his Andheri residence.