The Associated Press published a story on July 16th, 2018 titled “Saudi Arabia Bans Many Video Games After Children’s Deaths”. The article states that Saudi Arabia banned 47 games in the wake of a 13-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy committing suicide. The article linked their deaths to a social media game called Blue Whale. The Associated Press did not provide any additional information about the bans or the connection between the suicides and the alleged censorship.
Each of them linked the suicides to Blue Whale and reported that the 47 games had been banned in result of or in connection with the suicides, without first gaining any confirmation from the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media.
It turns out that the reports about the games being banned in result of the suicide are all fake news.
Ubisoft’s head of communication for the United Arab Emirates, Malek Teffaha, attempted to correct the record and get media outlets to amend or retract the stories, notifying them that the games had already been banned and it had nothing to do with Blue Whale or the child suicides.
Please western media, reach out to publishers locally present in the region and ask to clarify before echoing sensationalist headlines or fake news.
Yes these games are banned (at their launch) and it’s was not because of Blue Whale or suicide.
It’s due to sexual content. https://t.co/edBmDn6z8A
— Malek مالك 🍎 (@malekawt) July 17, 2018
After Malek reached out to media to correct the record, only one website updated their post and retracted the article, GamesIndustry.biz.
They (@GIBiz) have since then retracted the tweet and the news article.
I do wish they would just issue an apology for being too quick in their reporting, but at least they clearly see it wasn’t based in truth. pic.twitter.com/rQXfZj0wf3
— Malek مالك 🍎 (@malekawt) July 17, 2018
Man don’t get me started!
And the problem is that most of the original articles and news posts will not end up updating their story to reflect the actual facts.
The damage is basically done.
— Malek مالك 🍎 (@malekawt) July 17, 2018
The first report of the suicide came from someone close to the family on June 28th, 2018, confirming that the boy had passed.
توفي قبل قليل إبن خالي الذي يدرس الصف السادس الإبتدائي متأثراً بإحدى الألعاب الإلكترونية التي أجبرته على تنفيذ الإنتحار شنقاً ليدخل مرحلة جديدة من اللعبة
إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون
— ﮼عبدالله،بن،فهيد (@alaslay909) June 28, 2018
If you follow the Twitter thread you’ll discover that the user relays that the father blamed Disney’s The Magic Kingdoms for causing his son to become addicted, after spending inordinate amounts of time with it.
رسالة والد الضحية عبدالرحمن يفصح من خلالها عن إسم اللعبة التي كانت سبب في إنتحار إبنه (magic kingdoms) ويوضح مخاطرها pic.twitter.com/ceKpF7x4di
— ﮼عبدالله،بن،فهيد (@alaslay909) July 7, 2018
The reports about the boy’s suicide began to spread by June 30th, 2018, with sites like Al Arabiya providing insight into the tragedy. They did mention the Blue Whale, but nothing about the other games.
The second suicide didn’t occur until July 9th, 2018, as noted by Arabic social media outlet Breaking News.
The Splintering did an article about the fallout, explaining that many of the 47 games had already been previously banned and were “legacy” bans, well before the reports about the suicides were made public.
This is actually corroborated by the Saudi Gamer outlet, which recently reported on the misreporting by IGN, Newsweek, The New York Times, Associated Press, and PC Gamer. Saudi Gamer also corroborated the story about the father blaming Disney’s The Magic Kingdoms, along with publishing a press statement from Gameloft, the publishers of The Magic Kingdoms.
In fact, Saudi Gamer had previously reported on the bans a week before the Associated Press published the news about the suicides.
Back on July 10th, 2018 the Saudi outlet updated gamers in the Middle-East that the new God of War wasn’t in the updated list of banned games in the Saudi region. This gave them hope that the game would be properly localized and released in the UAE region.
So the ban list was updated just two days after the news reports began to surface about the first suicide, and it was updated an entire week before the second suicide even occurred.
What’s more is that the list contains many of the same games that were already banned since before 2017. There’s actually an archive of the list from March, 2017 that reveals that many of the 47 games that were added to the list on July 2nd, 2018 were already on the previous ban list from March, 2017.
Here’s the old list from 2017:
|Grand Theft Auto||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|2||Dante’s Inferno||جميع الاجهزه|
|4||God of War||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|5||Far Cry||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|6||Mafia II||جميع الاجهزه|
|7||Red Dead Redemption||جميع الاجهزه|
|8||Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare||جميع الاجهزه|
|9||Resident Evil 6||الجزء السادس فقط||جميع الاجهزه|
|10||Saints Row||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|11||Sleeping Dogs||جميع الاجهزه|
|12||Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition||جميع الاجهزه|
|13||Payday 2||جميع الاجهزه|
|14||50 Cent: Blood on the Sand||جميع الاجهزه|
|15||Clash of The Titans||جميع الاجهزه|
|16||Fable||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|17||Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2||جميع الاجهزه|
|18||Heavy Rain||جميع الاجهزه|
|19||Resistance 2||جميع الاجهزه|
|20||Resistance 3||جميع الاجهزه|
|22||The Saboteur||جميع الاجهزه|
|23||Assassin’s Creed II||جميع الاجهزه|
|24||Ninja Gaiden 3||جميع الاجهزه|
|25||Metro Redux||جميع الاجهزه|
|27||Wolfenstein: The New Order||جميع الاجهزه|
|28||Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z||جميع الاجهزه|
|29||The Order: 1886||جميع الاجهزه|
|30||DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition||جميع الاجهزه|
|31||Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster||جميع الاجهزه|
|32||Final Fantasy Type-0 HD||جميع الاجهزه|
|33||Watch Dogs||جميع الاجهزه|
|34||Mortal Kombat X||جميع الاجهزه|
|35||Dragon Age: Inquisition||جميع الاجهزه|
|36||Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker||جميع الاجهزه|
|37||The Last of US||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|38||Hitman||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|39||The Witcher||جميع الاجزاء||جميع الاجهزه|
|40||Home World Remastered Collection||جميع الاجهزه|
|41||The Walking Dead Season Two||جميع الاجهزه|
|42||The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited||جميع الاجهزه|
|43||Dead Rising 3 Apocalypse||جميع الاجهزه|
|44||Deception IV Nightmare Princess||جميع الاجهزه|
|45||Dishonored Definitive Edition||جميع الاجهزه|
|46||Halo 4 Game of the Year Edition GOTY||جميع الاجهزه|
|47||Samurai Warriors 4-II||جميع الاجهزه|
|48||Might & Magic Heroes VII||جميع الاجهزه|
|49||Guitar Hero Live||جميع الاجهزه|
|50||Guild Wars 2 Heart||جميع الاجهزه|
|51||Metal Gear Solider The Phantom Pain||جميع الاجهزه|
|52||Yo Kai Watch||جميع الاجهزه|
|53||Fallout 4||جميع الاجهزه|
|54||Worms Global Worming||جميع الاجهزه|
|56||Street Fighter V||جميع الاجهزه|
|57||DEVIL’S THIRD||جميع الاجهزه|
|58||AR NO SURGE||جميع الاجهزه|
|59||UFC 2||جميع الاجهزه|
|60||ONE PIECE BURNING BLOOD||جميع الاجهزه|
|61||PRISON ARCHITECT||جميع الاجهزه|
|62||DEUS EX MANKIND DIVIDED DAY ONE EDITION||جميع الاجهزه|
|63||Resident Evil 5||جميع الاجهزه|
And here’s the updated list from 2018:
|1||Agents of Mayhem|
|2||Assassins Creed 2|
|3||Attack on titan 2|
|5||Clash of the Titans|
|7||Dead Rising 3 Apocalypse Edition|
|9||Deception IV : The Nightmare Proncess|
|10||Deus Ex Mankind Divided|
|12||DmC – Defiitive edition|
|13||Dragon Age: Inquisition|
|14||Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen|
|15||Draw to Death|
|16||Final Fantasy Dissidia|
|17||Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2|
|18||God of War 1|
|19||God of War 2|
|20||God of War 3|
|21||Grand Theft Auto V|
|23||Hitman: Absolution (2012)|
|24||Life is Strange|
|29||One Piece Burning Blood|
|32||Resident Evil 5|
|33||Resident Evil 6|
|34||Saints Row IV|
|36||Street Fighter V|
|37||Street Fighter 30th Anniversary|
|38||The Order 1886|
|40||The Witcher 3|
|41||The Nonary Game|
|46||Wolfenstein: The New Order|
As you can see, there’s a lot of crossover… so it’s rather obvious that 47 games were not banned in result of the suicide, since some of these games have already been banned for a year.
Additionally, the fake news spreading about the games being banned in result of Blue Whale and the suicides is already at the top of Google News.
Essentially, Google is still working hand-in-hand with spreading propaganda and fake news, with absolutely no means of recourse.
Some of the commenters on sites like PC Gamer have called them out, but as of the writing of this article, none of the major websites have retracted their articles nor updated them to reflect the facts of the situation.
This is why #GamerGate exists.
I did reach out to the GCAM for clarification of the ban list being updated. If they choose to respond the article will be updated to reflect their response.