This is why we can’t have nice things … or nice memes … or nice video games … or nice childhoods free from creepy pictures and avatars of beings allegedly trying to get kids to commit suicide. Players of the popular 3D sandbox game Minecraft have been reporting a mysterious avatar popping up that looks like Momo, the grotesque face associated with a suicide game that has parents and police around the world worried. Is nothing sacred? What’s next … Momo faces appearing on toast or tortillas?
“This content, which was independently developed by a third party, does not align with our values and is not part of the official Minecraft game. This is a misuse of the platform and we are taking action to restrict access to the mod.”
A spokesperson for Microsoft issued that statement to Fox News in response to reports that a Momo avatar was appearing in Minecraft games and chasing other avatars while holding a phone with the WhatsApp icon. For those not familiar with some or all of these items (you really need to get out more), Momo is a picture of a strange bug-eyed Japanese sculpture that went viral on the Internet and became the face of the so-called Momo Suicide Game or Challenge where young people who contact Momo get emails challenging them to perform tasks that end with a suicide challenge that some believe is linked to the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina. Minecraft is a popular creativity video game for young children developed by Mojang, which was purchased by Microsoft. A “mod” is a customized modification to a game’s program not necessarily authorized by the game’s developers or owners. WhatsApp is a phone messenger service that was acquired by Facebook (you knew they’d be involved with this somehow) that’s the platform used to distribute the Momo challenge messages.
“WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users. It’s easy to block any phone number and we encourage users to report problematic messages to us so we can take action.”
Parents suspecting their children are communicating with Momo using WhatsApp can block the phone number being used. However, adding the mod to Minecraft eliminates the need for a number and installing it is easy (ask a kid). It’s more difficult to uninstall one or remove the game entirely from a PC. It appears the mod is more of an advertising tool to introduce kids to Momo rather than an extension of the suicide challenge. Whatever the case, it’s an indicator that Momo isn’t going away anytime soon.
It’s unclear what Microsoft is actually doing to “restrict access to the mod,” and there’s no guarantee that Momo won’t pop up elsewhere in Minecraft or in other modifications to other games.
As always, the warnings from those who realize it’s already too late and want to avoid tragedies and lawsuits focus on ‘talking to your kids’. That should go double for the parents of kids growing up to develop these mods and games.
Or is it too late for that too?