Not long ago, I came across a news story that left me with an indescribable feeling. One part of me wished to believe that what I had read couldn’t possibly be true, seeking solace in denial. However, my curious side, questioning, “Could such a thing really be true?” prevailed, and I typed those three words into a search engine: “Blue Whale Game.”
According to the article I read, the family held the Blue Whale game responsible for the suicide and death of a 14-year-old child. What kind of game was this? Did it have an excessively dark or depressing content? Was it manipulating its players to the point of neglecting their basic needs? I just couldn’t quite grasp the connection between an online game and suicide.
The Blue Whale game, responsible for the deaths of over a hundred children around the world, mostly in Russia, consists of 50 tasks given to the player over 50 days. These tasks are disturbing in nature and are particularly required to be completed at midnight. The intensity of the tasks increases each day, ultimately culminating in a final task that orders the player to take their own life.
The creator of the game is a 21-year-old young man in Russia who had some education in psychology and audio engineering and was expelled from university. He stated that the purpose of creating this game was to drive individuals with no value to society to commit suicide to “cleanse” society. The game is named after the Blue Whales that are believed to beach themselves due to depression. The ultimate goal is for the victim to become a Blue Whale. The game cannot be found through search engines; it spreads through closed social media groups, where the game’s administrator allegedly sends a virus-infected link to obtain players’ personal information and manipulate them into continuing to play.
Driven by curiosity, I researched this game while on vacation in a small coastal town. I couldn’t get out of the eerie black well I fell into for a long time maybe as I encountered the darkest side within man, at such a time when the pleasure principle is dominant and the world is rosy. The question, “How can someone’s mind design such a game?” continued to echo in my ears. This question coincided with the theme of November’s issue of Psikeart that I had been contemplating for a while: Sadism. As I was searching for a literary or movie character to explore under the theme of Sadism, the character I was seeking jumped out of a news clipping. Although I strive to adhere to the principle that nothing about human nature is alien to me, it seemed that, in this context, I needed the alienating impact of fictional characters. Nevertheless, all fictional characters, whether they represent examplars of virtue or ruthless serial killers, were born from the depths of the same unfathomable abyss we call the “psyche”.
19th-century psychiatrist Philippe Pinel, who coined the concept of psychopathy, described it as impulsive violence that arises despite the absence of mental and cognitive limitations. In modern times, the term psychopathy is predominantly used for more aggressive, punitive, and narcissistic manifestations of antisocial personality disorders. In contrast, sadism generally denotes deriving pleasure from causing pain to others. Sadistic individuals place significant importance on dominance and control. In typical developmental trajectories, as a baby encounters the constraining elements of the real world, they are expected to relinquish their fantasies of omnipotence. However, in cases of pathological grandiosity, an individual who believes they are of lesser value tends to denigrate others. In reality, their need to perceive others as inferior is driven by their own feelings of worthlessness (Knoll and Hazelwood, 2009).
Even a brief glimpse into the thoughts of Philipp Budeikin, the mastermind behind the Blue Whale Game, through an interview, unveils his condescending demeanor and grandiose disposition. In his own words, he stated,
They were meeting their end with a sense of contentment. I was offering them something that eluded them in their real lives: intimacy, empathy, and connection. In this world, there exist individuals and societal detriments deemed valueless, those who contribute nothing but harm to the community, and I saw it as my mission to cleanse society from such elements.”
Budeikin has ascribed to himself the divine responsibility of discerning individuals deemed detrimental to society from those considered valuable and eliminating those he regards as unworthy. The tasks assigned to the victim throughout the “game” demand unwavering obedience, and the degree of obedience escalates with each task. This obedience reaches an extent where the victim eventually takes their own life. Consequently, the game overseer attains boundless and supreme divine authority.
With the rapid integration of the internet into our lives, significant changes have occurred in all aspects of our relationships and habits. Social media has emerged as a prominent platform where basic human instincts take various forms. Aggression has found a place in this medium as well. Electronic aggression, cyberbullying, and cyber-violence are terms used to describe this form of aggression. It raises a debate in academic circles about whether this is a new phenomenon or simply an adaptation of existing pathologies to the digital realm. Some argue that “new wine in an old bottle” best describes online crimes, while others claim that the internet has provided entirely new possibilities and environments for traditional crimes to emerge (Peterson and Densley, 2017).
In our particular example, we can assert that the game’s creator embodies the age-old concept of the psychopathic mind, which has been recognized and characterized for centuries. However, the influence this mind has amassed through the internet and social media has elevated it to an entirely new echelon. The underlying divinity delusion behind the sadistic act becomes strikingly evident: we are now confronted with an omnipotence capable of terminating the victim’s life without the need for any tangible, real-world interaction.
As we continue to develop tools that bolster our dominion over the world, the threat arising from the interaction between these tools and the darker facets of the psyche grows in proportion, heightening our sense of uncanniness.We encountered similar challenges when we learned to control fire and delved into the realm of nuclear energy. Now, we face a comparable issue with the advent of the internet. As the outward forms shift with the evolution of our tools, the fundamental nature persists. Given that we cannot abandon the instruments of civilization and revert to a primitive state, our essential responsibility lies in comprehending the elements that activate and fortify our darker tendencies and neutralizing their influence. Faced with such darkness, humanity feels compelled to reiterate the conviction that beauty will redeem the world…
- Knoll, J. L. ve Hazelwood, R.R. (2009). Becoming the victim: Beyond sadism in serial sexual murderers. Agression and Violent Behaviour, 14, 106-114.
- Peterson, J. ve Densley, J. (2017). Cyber violence: What do we know and where do we go from here?, Agression and Violent Behaviour, 34, 193-200.