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The dangerous “Blue Whale Challenge” has been allegedly spreading across the internet for months now, with reports saying some teens have taken their lives to “win.” And now, the first set of game-related deaths in the U.S. have been reported.
According to the Washington Post, 15-year-old Texas high school sophomore Isaiah Gonzalez committed suicide on Saturday, livestreaming his death from his cellphone. Gonzalez’s family said the teen had been playing Blue Whale, which would make him one of the first known Americans to lose their life to the game. It was also reported Monday that a 16-year old girl in Atlanta had committed suicide after playing online. Her family has withheld her name to protect her identity.
In taking the challenge, players seek out a “master” that assigns them various tasks to complete in a 50-day span. While some tasks seem largely mundane, such as listening to a song or watching a music video, they are all intended to put the player in a depressive state over time. Commands gradually grow in intensity, until at last the player is commanded on the 50th day to commit suicide.
“There are a lot of groups on the internet, but when I found the one called [name redacted], I started playing for real,” one former Blue Whale player told SkyNews. “They start psychologically manipulating you. It is very professionally done. You become a bit of a zombie.”
Some officials are still speculating whether the Blue Whale game is legitimate, or if it’s an online hoax. But Gonzalez’s parents say they have found photos of their teen completing tasks from the game. And the Atlanta teen’s family noticed that their daughter’s actions mirrored many requests sent to Blue Whale players.
“I start researching and start reading more about the game, what it’s asking. Then I start to put some of the pieces—how during the weekend she asked me to step on the roof of the house,” the anonymous girl’s mother told CNN. “I realized one of the pictures is from our roof, and it’s something that the game asked.”
Since the teens’ deaths, schools and police departments have released announcements warning parents about the Blue Whale Challenge. One video from the Miami Police Department details how it’s played and its various names.
Blue Whale Challenge
In this Social Media 101 installment, we address a new sinister game or challenge that is starting to trend on social media and our schools. This challenge encourages young teens to commit suicide. Please watch the video and share with all your friends and family.Posted by Miami Police Department on Friday, May 19, 2017
Earlier this year, it was reported that over 100 Russian teens have allegedly committed suicide while playing the game, although those deaths remain unconfirmed.
Blue Whale’s alleged inventor, former Russian university student Philipp Budeikin, was previously arrested in May for urging “at least 16 teenage girls to kill themselves” while playing the game. Another administrator, 26-year-old Ilya Sidorov, was arrested by Russian police after investigators found that she had urged at least 30 girls to commit suicide.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.