Authorities in the United Kingdom have issued a warning over an online anime game they believe is linked to the death of a 15-year-old boy earlier this year.
Ben Walmsley of Bury, Manchester was found dead in February.
While the cause of his death has not been specified, a member of Manchester coroner’s office said that evidence suggested an association with a game called “Doki Doki” Manchester Evening News reported.
“I believe the information is so concerning that this warrants my writing at this stage to make the local authori ties aware of the issue so appropriate information can be disseminated,” the coroner told local authorities.
“This has arisen due to the fact I am conducting the inquest into the death of a 15-year-old-boy who died earlier this year. Evidence obtained suggested he had used an online game called ‘Doki Doki.’”
“Doki Doki Literature Club,” released by US-based developer Team Salvato, is a free-to-play game featuring four girls and a boy who wants to join a literature club. It reportedly starts well before themes of mental ill-health, self-harm and suicide take over.
But the game, while designed with graphic references and violent images, comes with a warning that states it is “not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed.” Additionally, it warns that “individuals suffering from anxiety or depression may not have a safe experience playing.”
It also asks players to consent on being above 13, “By playing Doki Doki Literature Club, you agree that you are at least 13 years of age, and you consent to your exposure of highly disturbing content.”
Ben’s father, Darren, believes that the “dark” game “dragged his son in.” The 49-year-old recalled his son sketching “Doki Doki” characters and getting text messages day and night.
“Ben was growing up fast. It is hard for parents but this needs to be highlighted. There is no confirmation yet, but we believe that the game could be linked to Ben’s death,” he said.
Darren described his son as “intelligent,” “loving” and “funny with a great sense of humour.” But Ben never spoke about the game.
“Characters suggest things and you decide what to do. It drags you in and they make it very real. Ben did not speak about it, but parents need to be aware of this game and other similar games,” Darren said.
“It is free to download but once you get into it, it will not leave you alone. The characters befriend and love you and give you tasks to do but if you do not do them, they turn nasty.”
In the wake of the news, a coroner alerted schools ahead of a pre-inquest review into Ben’s death on June 28. Police have also issued a warning.
Philips High School, where Ben attended, posted:
“A concern has recently been brought to our attention by HM Senior Coroner regarding the use by young people of the online game ‘Doki Doki’, also known as ‘Doki Doki Literature Club.’
“This is a psychological horror game. Please monitor and check your child’s internet use regularly and be mindful of the time spent.”
Meanwhile, Jude Holmes, detective inspector from Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Division, said:
“GMP have been made aware of an online game called ‘Doki Doki’ or Doki Doki Literature Club which is a psychological game.
“We believe this game is a risk to children and young people especially those that are emotionally vulnerable and anyone with existing mental health concerns.
“I would ask parents to check the sites their children are using on a regular basis, as websites like this aren’t flagged up by normal firewall settings.”