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Bad Press: Saudi Arabia Did Not Ban 47 Games Over Child Suicides

If you’ve been reading the news this week, you may have come across a story that the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media has banned a list of 47 video games following the suicide deaths of a 13-year old girl and 12-year old boy. You might be more confused by the fact that the two were playing the “Blue Whale” social media game and not a video game at all, let alone one on the list of banned titles. The news piece caught me by surprise as I was fairly certain that I had read about games like Yo Kai Watch and Okami being banned in Saudi Arabia years ago.

Your confusion would be well founded, because much like the Blue Whale game itself, this appears to be a case of fake news with patient zero as none other than the Associated Press. Other than the AP’s claim that the ban list was associated with the Blue Whale Game, there has been no confirmation and the AP article even admits that the agency did not specify a connection. If you try to check local Saudi news on a new video game ban wave, you won’t find anything.

Thankfully the crack investigative team at MMO Fallout was able to get their hands on a list of prohibited games dating back to June 2017, showing that not only is the AP report incorrect, but that the conclusion it leads to is rather easily fact checked. Through the power of the Web Archive (please excuse the slow servers), you can view the list of prohibited titles published in June 2017. The list includes numerous titles that are on the current list: Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 6, Yo Kai Watch, God of War, Assassin’s Creed, etc.

Unfortunately the web archive only goes back to 2017 for the Saudi website, but it is evidence enough that the AP’s report on the General Commission is inaccurate. MMO Fallout is not the first to bring this to light, as Ubisoft’s head of communications and localization for the Middle East took to Twitter to call out the Associated Press and request a retraction on the article. The AP report is still up as of this publishing, as are most of the websites that source their news stories from the AP.

Among the press that carried this coverage, Nick Santangelo over at IGN pointed out that there are no secondary sources for the AP’s claim. Games Industry has fully retracted their article. None of the other press websites at this time appear to have altered or retracted their coverage.

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