The Blue Whale game is named after the phenomenon of blue whales supposedly deliberately beaching themselves and is an alleged online / app-based ‘game’ in which, after being given daily tasks of mounting danger levels, culminates in the player (usually cited as a teenager) being forced to kill themselves after 50 days of play.
A quick search will reveal supposed victims – happy, pretty teenagers from middle class families in Russia who killed themselves in order to complete the game. It has even been reported in mainstream national tabloid newspapers in various countries such as UK, mostly in Europe.
However, a deeper dig reveals that the ‘game’ doesn’t really exist outside of the news stories about it. There has never been any verified proof on such an app being available, nor of news stories pertaining to the death of the teenagers in question.
It appears that the real reason behind the viral news story was to highlight the need for parents to monitor what their children are doing online and to be vigilant against would-be games such as these which vulnerable & impressionable kids could be susceptible to.
The truth, or what we know about those behind the game/ hoax, is quite murky and there isn’t a clear-cut answer as to who is behind the Blue Whale game, whether it’s real or what the designer’s motivations might be.
This Snopes article contains the fullest information I have seen on the net about this rumored game.
The truth is rarely plain and never simple!
There is little real evidence of the Blue Whale game existing outside of what was reported in news stories. A quick search of the app stores reveals that. Of course, people are band-wagonning on the hype and creating their own apps and sites that they all claim are the ‘real’ Blue Whale.
INVENTOR: The Blue Whale killer challenge was developed by a Russian psychology student, Philipp Budeikin. He was expelled from his university and said in a statement that he invented the game to ‘clean’ the society of people who are of no value.
Another 17-year old Russian girl has been detained recently as she is accused of being the ‘mastermind’ behind the game. Earlier a participant herself, she is known to be responsible for introducing the 50 challenges which instruct the players to self-harm.
WHY THE NAME? Blue Whale name comes from the fact that blue whales occasionally beach themselves intentionally and die.
ORIGIN: The killer online game originated in Russia and has now spread to other parts of the world. It is not freely available and is not a downloadable game, app or software. It is shared among very secretive groups on social media networks. Many reports suggest that you don’t choose to play Blue Whale, the creators seek you out and send you an invitation to join.
HOW IS IT PLAYED? An online administrator gives the player challenges over a period of 50 days. After completion of every task, the player is expected to share photo as proof for approval. The first few challenges are easy but the subsequent ones turn sinister, challenging you to hurt yourself. They are meant to condition you to ultimately commit suicide. The tasks are ‘adaptable’ and are tweaked by the curator as per the geographical location of the player.
Although there is no clear set of 50 challenges, given below is the list of the likely tasks that are given to the participant. These were shared by someone on Reddit. As said earlier, the task may vary for participants depending on the player’s geographical location. It could even change according to the player’s age and sex. To be honest, it could even depend on the whims of the administrator.
1. On your arm, carve ‘f57’ (name of death and suicide group in Russia) with a blade.
2. Wake up at 4:20 am and watch scary videos.
3. Cut your arm along with your veins (not deep), only three cuts.
4. Draw a whale on a piece of paper.
5. If you’re ready to ‘become a whale’, you write “yes” with the blade on your leg, if not, you have to cut yourself many times (as a punishment).
6. Task is in code.
7. On your arm, carve ‘f40’ (another Russian death and suicide group) with a blade.
8. Write in the status #I_am_Whale.
9. You should overcome your fear.
10. Get up at 4:20 am and go to the roof.
11. It is necessary to scratch out a whale on the hand (or make a drawing on the hand).
12. Watch scary videos the whole day.
13. Listen to music that they send to you.
14. Cut your lip.
15. Poke the needle arm.
16. Hurt yourself.
17. Go to the highest roof you can find and stand on the edge.
18. Go to a bridge and stand on the edge.
19. Climb on a crane or at least try.
20. Curators check if you are trustworthy.
21. Talk with another ‘whale’ (someone else who is also playing the same game) on Skype.
22. Sit down on the edge of a roof with your feet dangling.
23. Another task in a code.
24. Secret task.
25. Meet with a ‘whale’.
26. Curator tells you the date of your death and you must accept it.
27. Wake up at 4:20 am and go to any railroad in your area.
28. Do not talk with anyone.
29. Take an oath that you’re a whale.
30-49. Every day you wake up at 4:20 am, watch scary videos, listen to music that they send, make cuts on your body each day and talk to a ‘whale’.
50. Jump off a high roof and take your life.
WHO IS THE JUDGE? The admins control the challenges. People have tried to use photo-shopped images as proofs, but the perception is that they cannot be fooled. One reporter from a European Radio station tried it and was caught out and they stopped communicating with him.
HOW DO THEY FIND YOU? You cannot find the admin or download. The admins find you. They generally scour the internet and ferret out those who are depressed or have displayed other psychological traits that make them vulnerable, or ideal targets, to be contacted. These could be looking at target’s public profile, Instagram and other social posts, etc. The curator or admins also seek out people from death groups and suicide squads onaka Vkontakte, the largest online social media and network in Russia.
All efforts by us to locate the game generated no results.
WHY CAN’T YOU STOP MIDWAY? Theory is that once they admit you as a player, you have to accept a cookie and that gives them access to your entire data online. And this data is the lever they have to blackmail anyone who wants to back out. Cases abound of the admins blackmailing and cyber bullying such individuals into completing all tasks. They threaten to hurt their family or reveal all his personal data online.
WHY CAN’T THE ‘GAME’ BE BLOCKED? First up, it is far from a game. There is not a single person or unit who is managing it. As the inventors of the game have been put behind the bars, many wonder how the game is still spreading. It is simply because of the various mirror games that have now been created and are carried over by many curators who are spread far and wide. The police and law enforcement authorities worldwide are at their wits end trying to block access to the ‘game’
It is so scattered and decentralized that banning it is not possible. Tracking the IP addresses of the curators has also not yielded desirable results so far.
IS THE GAME KNOWN BY OTHER NAMES? Yes, there are several other names that are used. With the name Blue Whale getting blocked from across social media platforms, there are other names of the game that have originated. These names include ‘A Silent House’, ‘A Sea of Whales’, ‘Wake Me Up At 4.20 am’.
SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR: Celebrity psychologist Seema Hingorrany is getting multiple queries from parents. “They are scared, especially parents who are getting their kids treated for ADHD and video game addiction.” Below are signs that parents can keep an eye on:
– A recent tendency in the child to stay aloof
– Any changes in diet or sleep pattern of child
– Any cuts or wounds on the body
– Staying up at night around 4:20 am
The children who may be more prone to Blue Whale challenge are those who may talk about running away from home or about death in general.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
– Parents need to maintain an effective communication with the kids. Take interest in what they do and spend their time in.
– Give them space enough to let them unfold their feelings without restraint.
– Instead of complaining or reprimanding them about their spending time by themselves or for crying, try to understand the reason for such behavior.
– Make it a rule to talk to your child for 20 minutes every day and let them do the talking. This will help you to read any signs of trouble that they may be going through.
– As the world is getting digitized, it is extremely important for you to bridge that gap by staying updated of their digital activity. Keep an eye on what they do on the internet.
– If you are tracking your child’s activity on the web, you can look out for words such as ‘F57’ or ‘F40’ or the other names by which the game is addressed, that is, “Quiet House”, “The Silent House”, “Wake me up at 4:20am” or “The Sea of Whales”. You must also keep a tab on hashtagged forms of these words also.
LARGER ISSUE AT HAND: To say that the Blue Whale challenge is entirely and wholly responsible for participants committing suicide is not right. Experts are saying that the larger issue at hand is that of depression. Some are even calling the game an ‘urban legend’ and in the process of focusing too much on it, we are ignoring more important issues at hand, like mental health issues among children. It is very clear that the most vulnerable children to the Blue Whale challenge are those who have an active or underlying depression. The participation in such a game can be an act of demanding attention from others or a form of punishing the parents for not giving the child enough time.