What just happened? It appears that the renewed trend of demonizing video games is continuing. In Saudi Arabia, the government is set to ban 47 titles following the reported suicide of two children who killed themselves after taking part in a social media challenge.

Update: Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, which also covered the story, the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media (GCAM) said it did not issue any bans. While the games in question are restricted from sale in the region, they were not all banned simultaneously, and not in response to any suicides.

According to IGN Middle East, the father of the Saudi boy who committed suicide told the press that the Blue Whale challenge was to blame, which for some reason got linked to the game ban, but he later retracted this claim.

"Currently, the 'ban' of games has been quite rare, because GCAM---and other Middle East rating boards like National Media Council in the United Arab Emirates---actually work hand in hand with the game publishers either directly or via their official distributors working," Nazih Fares, a localisation expert for Saudi Arabia, told GameIndustry.biz.

"For example, in the case of The Witcher 3---which I started working on its localisation---the game was localised in Arabic with subtitles and language, but also reducing the nudity and removing other cultural topics from the game that could be problematic (it was similar to the Japanese SKU of the game for example)."

The Associated Press, which was the source of the news, still hasn't updated its article and has failed to respond to inquiries. The original story follows below. We now know that the information provided by AP was inaccurate.

The Associated Press reports that the 12-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl participated in the Blue Whale challenge. The social media "game" has not reached the west, but there are reports of the phenomenon in Russia, Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries.

The challenge, which is said to have resulted in over 100 deaths, gives players 50 days to complete a series of tasks. While they start off innocuously enough, such as watching specific movies, elements of self-harm are gradually introduced, culminating in a 50th task that asks players to kill themselves.

In 2016, 21-year-old Russian national Philipp Budeikin claimed to have invented the game back in 2013. The former psychology student said he was "just having fun." He was sentenced to three years behind bars in 2017 for "inciting Russian youths to kill themselves."

The Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media announced the ban, though it did not confirm that it was a direct response to the children's deaths. With no apparent link between the Blue Whale challenge and the video games, the agency says the bans are for unspecified violations of rules and regulations.

Exactly how the commission chose the games is unclear. The list contains titles that can hardly be considered violent, such as Yo-Kai Watch and Okami, and while some franchises like GTA, God of War, and Resident Evil appear, only select entries from the series are considered worthy of a ban.

The report follows last week's news that most parents don't pay attention to a game's age rating, with 86 percent confessing that they simply don't follow age restrictions for video games.

Full list of banned games:

  • Agents of Mayhem
  • Assassins Creed 2
  • Attack on Titan 2
  • Bayonetta 2
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Dante's Inferno
  • Dead Rising 3 Apocalypse Edition
  • Deadpool
  • Deception IV: The Nightmare Process
  • Deus Ex Mankind Divided
  • Devils Third
  • DmC - Definitive edition
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
  • Draw to Death
  • Final Fantasy Dissidia
  • Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2
  • God of War 1
  • God of War 2
  • God of War 3
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Heavy Rain
  • Hitman: Absolution (2012)
  • Life is Strange
  • Mafia 2
  • Mafia 3
  • Metro Redux
  • Okami
  • One Piece Burning Blood
  • Past Cure
  • Prison Architect
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Resident Evil 6
  • Saints Row IV
  • SplatterHouse
  • Street Fighter V
  • Street Fighter 30th Anniversary
  • The Order 1886
  • The Saboteur
  • The Witcher 3
  • The Nonary Game
  • Thief
  • Vampyr
  • Watch Dogs
  • Wolfenstein 2
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order