- A dangerous online game with one intention: To Kill
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Ben is a 14-year-old teenage boy who comes across the online game the Blue Whale. While playing this game, he has to complete one challenge after another. He accomplishes every task and keeps on moving to the subsequent levels. After 50 days of playing this game, it is time for the final and concluding challenge - the grand finale, which instructs him to commit suicide. He goes up to highest floor of the building and jumps to his death.
The name of this game, "Blue whale", was borrowed from the practice of some types of whales that beach themselves and thereby end their lives (Patchin, 2017). In a similar manner, this online game also focuses on ending the player's life.
But where did it all start? Servamus spoke to Mrs Susan Snyman from the IT faculty of Varsity College in Pretoria, who told us that the origin of the game can be traced back to a 22-year-old Russian psychology student and game designer named Philipp Budeikin, who intentionally manipulated teenagers into committing suicide. He started in 2013 when he created the death group named F57 after he had thought about this idea for five years. Why the name F57? Susan Snyman said that although his name was spelled with a Ph, it was pronounced as an F, and 57 represented the last two digits of his phone number. Philipp established contact with multiple teenagers online, studied their mental state and then selected those he found to be weak or depressed enough to be pushed toward killing themselves. His explanation for his actions is chilling: "There are people and there is biological waste. I was cleaning our society of such people," he said (Makhni, 2017). Susan added that he created the game to cleanse society through suicide of the weak or people who do not represent any value for society and would cause only harm to society.
Philipp Budeikin developed the game in which he gives teenagers tasks to complete up until the point where the teenagers get so vulnerable that they will commit suicide when instructed to do so. Philipp said that he gathered the children, then offered simple tasks which, for some children, were too boring or weird to complete - these were clearly too strong to be manipulated. Those who stayed in the game were given much more extreme tasks like cutting their veins, balancing on a roof top, or killing an animal and posting a video or pictures online to prove it. The majority of children left at that stage. A small group of teenagers was left and they obediently completed all the tasks - it was clear that these teenagers were physiologically ready to follow whatever the administrators told them to do, no matter how strange or scary the tasks were. They felt their position in the group was so precious that they were prepared to literally do anything to stay in. "One of the troubles for us was that 15 children who committed suicide at administrator's orders were told to delete all correspondence in their social media accounts, which they all did. However, one girl went through to the final stage of the game before giving up and she provided state investigators with crucial evidence," said Anton Breido, a senior official from the Russian Investigative Committee (which is like an equivalent to the FBI).
Philipp admitted that he was really pushing teenagers to their death and added: "They were dying happy. I was giving them what they didn't have in real life: warmth, understanding, connections" (Stewart, 2017).
Philipp clearly knew what he had to do to get the results he wanted - this deadly game allegedly resulted in its first suicide in 2015 in Russia (Baruah, 2017). He was later arrested and confessed to provoking 17 deaths and was incarcerated for three years by a Siberian court (Stewart and Davies, 2017). When he walked into prison, he was still in "God" mode and felt that he was untouchable (Stewart, 2017).