A few weeks ago, to coincide with Valentine’s Day (14 February), a girl as young as 10 was taken to hospital with a concussion and other injuries after throwing herself out of a window in Kirishi, Russia. The girl had apparently been thrown into the void because of a game that has become a new social phenomenon, known as “Blue Whale” .

On 20 February, the Russian media reported that the Federal Security Service in St. Petersburg has opened a line of inquiry to clarify what is happening. According to several sources, the total number of victims of this game now stands at 130 people.

Blue Whale: The Suicide Game

Throughout the territory of Russia and in some Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Blue Whale has become a truly worrying phenomenon, as many children and adolescents have died as a result of the use of this game.

This game is a viral challenge in which participants must pass several tests , such as tattooing a blue whale with a knife, jumping into the void from great heights, watching horror movies all day long or staying awake for long periods of time. The last test is suicide.

Several challenges in 50 days

The game has a simple but dangerous and, in its last phase, deadly operation . Once the participant registers, he or she is assigned a curator. The curator then gives him/her different tasks to do, which, over the next 50 days, he/she must complete one by one. The participant, in order to demonstrate that he has overcome the different challenges, must record himself with video or share a photograph of the completion of the test. After overcoming different challenges, the curator asks the participant to commit suicide.

According to Radio Free Europe (also known as Radio Liberty), the curators use different hashtags in Russian that translated mean: “blue whale”, “sea of whales”, “I’m in the game”, “wake up at 4:20”, among many others. This practice has become a social phenomenon among the country’s youth.

The viral phenomenon started in Vkontakte

This trend is known to have started in the social network Vkontakte, also called Vk . Although it is unknown to many people, it is widely used in countries such as Russia, Belarus or Ukraine.

It is also used in Spain, since there are many Russian inhabitants who spend their summer in our country. Some Spaniards use it because, despite having a similar aesthetic to Facebook and sharing some functionalities with this social network, it also shares similar functions to some flirting apps (such as the location of Happn), but without that being its purpose or objective. According to the data provided by several local media, only on January 20, 2017 there were 4,000 searches for the hashtags of this game.

An example of how curators work

Surprising as it may seem, some children and teenagers get carried away by this game, many of them with the idea of doing something forbidden. That’s why a journalist from Radio Free Europe (RFE), decided to create a fake profile of a 16 year old girl in order to be able to talk are a curator through Vk. The conversation went like this:

Journalist RFE: “Good morning. I’d like to play the game, what do I have to do?”

Curator: “Are you sure? Once you’ve started there’s no turning back.

RFE journalist: “I’m sure, but what does that mean?”

Curator: “Well, you can’t quit the game once you start. If you accept, you must assume the rules of the game. “RFE Journalist: “I’m ready, so go ahead. When you finish each task, you must send me a photo or video so that I can check that you have passed each phase. And at the end of the game, you die. Are you ready?”

RFE journalist: “What if I want to quit the game?”

Curator: “I have all your information. They’ll come for you.”

The journalist claims that the first task was to make the symbol “F58” on his arm with a knife. Then he had to send in a photo to prove that the test had been successfully completed.

Some hypotheses that are considered

Russian mental health professionals and state officials are expressing concern . That is why they are trying to identify the factors that drive young people to be interested in such macabre games.

This issue has reached the Russian political scene , which sees in this phenomenon an argument to reinforce the control over the Internet. At a hearing held on 16th February in Russia’s Public Chamber to discuss a bill to increase penalties for inciting suicide, accusations were heard claiming that this phenomenon has been created by “Ukrainian nationalists” as a campaign ready to trap 2 million young people, according to a report on the meeting in the daily Kommersant.

Suspected and guilty of inciting suicide

Several media outlets have reported on the investigations and arrests that are taking place. The newspaper of the Ossetia region in northern Russia reported on 17 February that four local people, including two minors, had been arrested on suspicion of playing a key role in the suicide of a 15-year-old boy on 1 February.

On 20 February, prosecutors in Altai, Russia, opened an investigation into allegations that an unidentified group of individuals had pressured a 15-year-old boy to commit suicide for a period of three months, without success.