Newsweek is bringing out the news, news that had me rattled. The story (at https://www.newsweek.com/saudi-arabia-bans-47-popular-video-games-general-commission-audio-visual-1028013) gives us ‘Saudi Arabia bans 47 popular video games including ‘Assassins Creed,’ ‘Deadpool’ And ‘Final Fantasy’‘. For a moment I could not fathom why video games would be banned. Now, even as Deadpool is unlikely to be my choice of game ever. It does have a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ approach to gaming, which gives it a positive flair. Yet overall, even as I loved the movies, I never read the comic books, so there is a gap there and I reckon that the comic book fans are most likely the ones who would want the game.
So, I was intrigued to learn what the reasons were. The article merely gives me “The kingdom’s General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said Monday that 47 games will be banned for violating rules and regulations“, pretty much all the media gives the same setting some of them give other titles, even though as far as I could tell, none gave the full list. All of them set the stage that the game ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is the starting point for the decision involved. Now, I do get the fact that censorship remains strong in Saudi Arabia, the fact that this is the first year that the cinemas are open, the movies are still all to be screened before allowed in the cinema.
The National (at https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/after-suicide-in-saudi-arabia-parents-urged-to-do-more-to-curb-gaming-effects-1.746328) had another side in all this. Here we see one of the Saudi fathers in question giving us: “A Saudi father has blamed the suicide of his 12-year-old son on an online game that he said “broke the spirit” of his child. But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in“, I feel sorry for the loss of that father and the other parents. Yet in this part, even as a gamer and gaming expert for decades, I do not agree with the response. Yes, parents need to step in at time, yet the setting given against that father is unrealistic. You see, for a large portion of the world, gaming is life. Let me explain that, so that you do not get the wrong idea. Our lives are bettered through social interaction, at times we also need our own space to unwind, to relax and let the brain work things out. Gaming allows for all that. The multiplayer games allow friends and schoolmates to compete and sometimes cooperate in games like Fortnite and online RPG’s. By ourselves we can escape our place for a little while and seek comfort elsewhere. I myself can lose myself for hours in Minecraft by myself and feel really awesome after an hour or so, games have that ability. The nice part of Minecraft is that you can play it at times without even thinking, a version of virtual Lego that allows you to create, explore as well as destroy spiders and skeletons. Now with the ocean world addition the game just become more than twice the size it already was. It is great to game at times. All these games are positive reinforcements, no matter what the game is. You might be scared of every corner in Bloodborne; you might see the cliffs and not know the next move like a Tomb Raider should, or sneak through the corridors removing the henchmen of the Arkham Knight. None of them are negative against you and for the most they are positive parts. Even in Assassins Creed where you are correcting great injustice through killing mind you. You are one against an army! It is a challenge and at times even more. The cultural references and the additional scenes in Assassins Creed Origin were overwhelming, making it a learning experience as well.
In the darkness there are monsters
Yes, there are monsters too; in this case it is one person. It is Philipp Budeikin. The information on him is sketchy to an extent. He is a former psychology student who was expelled from his university for reasons I have not found yet. According to his own claims he invented the game in 2013. In more than one source we (BBC was one of them) he gives it to the press that his intention was to cleanse society by pushing persons to suicide whom he deemed as having no value, they were he referred to as “biological waste”. This is new; this is the first time where someone with psychological skills was out to make children destroy their own life. The game known as the ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘, the game allegedly instructs challengers to participate in a series of strange and disturbing challenges. These can include live streaming self-harm and staying up late to watch horror movies (source: The New Arab). The challenges are stated to grow increasingly extreme, until they are reportedly instructed to kill themselves as part of the 50th and final challenge. Apart from any person doing that, or being willing to do that. The fact that someone is willing to go this path (I refer to the game maker) is just weird and insane. In addition, the fact that this person was intentionally and knowingly targeting vulnerable people and the fact he is merely facing 3 years in jail is equally an issue. I will be the first one to sign any petition to ban this game for life on a global scale. This is not about the freedom of expression; this is not about freedom of speech. This is about protecting children! I have seen weird games in my lifetime. The most offensive game I saw was on the Commodore-64 in the late 80’s. It was a game called ‘Paki bang’, an offensive game where you have to shoot Pakistani’s. You got 1 point for every Pakistani you shot and -1000 for every Caucasian. It was offensive and I walked away within a minute, a game with absolutely no redeeming values, little did I know how bad could turn to worse. In my life, the setting where children are intentionally targeted by someone with psychological skills is just too unnatural; the setting clearly makes Philipp Budeikin “biological waste”, as he states the value himself. I do like and agree with the response that we see in The National. With “Omar Sharif, owner of Geeky Lizard, a gaming community and store in Dubai states: “But it’s the job of parents to make sure that kids are engaging in healthy online habits”“, I believe that to be a truth, online has many positive sides, but it has negative sides too. Parents need to be aware what their children are up to, it might not make sense at times to parents, but there is a difference between kids shouting at their friends in competition and collaboration in a game, against the setting that they are given a challenge to physically and emotionally harming themselves. We can argue that children do not always realise this, but the setting of protecting ourselves form harm is coded in our DNA, we tend to not act in self harm, the fact that ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is stripping away these defences is an issue and the ‘defence’ given by some with “But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in” is not one that I can agree with. The fact that this ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is not hunted down on every server by government and hackers alike is much larger issue. This setting is so unnatural that parents would not have been ready. We all should have stepped up and made sure that any server having this software got hacked and all its data removed any way possible.
In the end, the Saudi government will need to make another ruling here, it might not be immediate, but in the long run it is perhaps essential to consider the reason for any games banned other than ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘. In the end, we need to realise that Saudi Arabia has strict rules on what is allowed and the event that caused the death of two children was the one step that caused a clamp down on certain matters. Saudi Arabia has a sovereign right here. Gamers might not like it, but it is a reality. Even as we might not agree with the verdict on nearly all but one game getting the “Saudi Arabia today banned dozens of video games that it says lead children to harm themselves” label of non-approval.
Time will tell on how things evolve, in the end, we need to realise that it is a list of 47, whilst most consoles have hundreds of titles that were not banned, let’s make sure that we do not forget that part of the equation either.
In other gaming news
The predictions I have given in the past regarding Butterfingers Microsoft versus Eagerly Innovating Nintendo is taking a stronger turn, unofficial numbers (and not from a reliable source I must add) have implied the setting that Nintendo has now approached the 2/3rd marker. It is about to pass (or has just passed) the line where since the release of the Nintendo Switch (March 2017) now equaled two thirds of all the Microsoft Xbox One sold in its life cycle (since November 2013). In less than 18 months it has reached the speculated 2/3rd marker (It is hard to be precise as Microsoft is no longer releasing total consoles sold). It might be because the ‘most powerful console in the world‘ is getting surpassed by the weakest one, but that would be speculation on my side. I see it as the price for being short sighted and narrow minded, not to mention the inability to listen to their customers. 3 elements that became the alleged cause on a lessened revenue path for ‘the most powerful console in the world’.
That moment is still important, it is the clear message that it is all about playing the game and Microsoft has not been doing that. Even as Forbes gave us merely 4 days ago “Microsoft continues to surprise us with strong support for backwards compatibility and an equally remarkable offering with its subscription Xbox Games Pass as it quickly becomes the Netflix of video games” (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2018/07/14/xbox-one-vs-ps4-vs-nintendo-switch-the-state-of-the-console-wars-in-2018/#21fbe2571a8e), yet it is interesting that Forbes seems to be so protective of Microsoft, ignoring that the ‘the Netflix of video games‘ does so with a massively inferior storage system. It talks hard against Sony (validly I might add), and acknowledges the ‘Nintendo has had a remarkable resurgence‘ with the added ‘but investors are still spooked about the system‘, is that not interesting on how soft Forbes is on Microsoft? so as we get ‘will investors ever give Nintendo a break?‘, which might be a valid statement, yet it is not properly set in the dimension against the Microsoft failures (four times over), as well as ‘and will Sony stop being such sore winners?‘, which is a fair call, yet the question is how many are truly hurt by no cross playing? In the past it was never an option and we all wanted it, Sony might not be ready on a few levels, but the Sony remark is still valid, correct and acceptable, so why be so soft on Microsoft, because they are getting a beating from Nintendo? I do not recall such sentimental considerations when Microsoft Word took WordPerfect to an abattoir and gutted it completely. It was not about consideration then, so why is it now?
I am still uncertain whether Nintendo Switch will surpass Microsoft before New Year’s evening this year. The delay of 2-3 big titles are largely the cause of that, yet in light of the amount of games released, there is good cause for joy around Christmas time for Nintendo. At that point it does not really matter whether the Xbox One life cycle sales gets surpassed no sooner than Q1 2019. What matters is that gamers get to play games, perhaps it will wake up the board of directors of Microsoft to rethink their choices on all the times that they fumbled the ball, because one fumble was enough to end a console in the past (with the exception of the Sega Dreamcast, they lost because Sony was willing to be the marketeer with deadly intent). Or perhaps the fact that Microsoft advertises in Forbes? I might be speculating on the three steps on a certain Wi-Fi enabled print ad, but that does not take away the setting that we see the valid existence of ‘its subscription Xbox Games Pass‘. For me that setting comes across as someone telling a leprechaun to go screw an elephant, to which the leprechaun responds: ‘with what?‘
Having a small drive tends to be not so memorable. #PunIntended