New gaming risks

Published: October 1, 2017
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It is easy enough to underestimate the threat posed by deadly online games such as the “Blue Whale Challenge” or “The Choking Game” given the pervasiveness and popularity of gaming among today’s youth. Most of us have come to accept gaming as a bit of harmless fun — highly addictive though it may be. The chances of anything going wrong during such games would perhaps be more than a million to one — at least that’s what the general perception used to be. Until the last few years, the biggest threat to players of online games was the potential to meet dangerous strangers — even as parents voiced fears about the possible exposure to foul language and inappropriate conduct. There was always the risk of dangerous individuals cloaked as they were in the mask of anonymity taking advantage of innocents. However, there are graver threats to gamers these days.

Game designers in the pursuit of more commercial success have started to push the limit by inventing new challenges that can potentially take the lives of players. This week, a college in Punjab’s Jhelum district expelled two young women who bore injuries on their arms while playing the Blue Whale challenge — known as a suicide game that entails 50-odd tasks. At least three other individuals who played the game in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa survived the challenge but were mentally and physically scarred by it.

Since this game isn’t exactly a downloadable or subscribable app or service, it would serve little purpose to ban it. One possible way to stop it from causing harm is getting curators or admins of the game especially those who monitor #curatorfindme, #BlueWhaleChallenge hashtags to establish contact with these players through social media channels and talk them out of it. On a broader level, parents and guardians need to play a more proactive role and engage with troubled youth before they resort to self-harm.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2017.

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