Movistar campaign shows how predators recruit minors for organized crime through online games

‘This is Not a Game’ raises awareness about interacting with unknown online profiles

Published On
Apr 16, 2024
This is not a game screengrab

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Gaming might be fun, especially to minors, but it can also be a dangerous place for those who interact with unknown online profiles. 

Latin American telecommunications company Movistar aims to bring awareness to the issue in its latest campaign from VML. “This is Not a Game,” launched last week, focuses on creating safer environments for video game players—particularly minors.

Designed to mimic the interface and movements of popular video games, a seven-minute film shows how a teenager in Mexico, played by a real person, is lured and recruited by a local gang by interacting with an unknown online profile on his video game.

As the film begins, the boy, the son of a police officer, chats with a strange person who offers him a new phone and drops a pickup location. The viewer is then walked through how the situation escalates, as the boy is abducted, initiated and trained, against his will, in a gang. 

The video represents the actors involved as having exaggerated movements, like those of game characters. That is until the end—when the game-like movements, dialogue and behavior begin to be more realistic, showing that the story is not a game. 

The campaign comes as minors are found to increasingly interact with unknown profiles in online video games, with 75% of children reporting the profiles they interact with are unknown individuals and strangers, according to the National System for Comprehensive Protection of Girls, Boys, and Adolescents.

Among the predatory risks that minors can face in these situations are proposals to meet outside the virtual world, which can carry serious risks, including grooming, human trafficking, forced labor and kidnapping.

“Through ‘This Is Not a Game,’ we seek to raise awareness in society about the risks existing in the world of video games. We invite players and caregivers of minors to take control and get involved to detect and prevent risks associated with online gaming interaction,” Fernanda Pérez, head of brand and integrated marketing communications at Movistar, said in a statement. “People give meaning to technology, and with information, we can use it responsibly." 

The campaign also comes as more drug cartels in Mexico have been found to recruit youth through contact made on multiplayer online video games. 

The effort is part of Movistar’s ongoing commitment to promote a secure environment and address cultural issues in the digital world. “This Is Not a Game” follows other Movistar awareness campaigns such as “Disconnected,” which invites reflection on the importance of digital disconnection, and “Love Story,” which addresses fake profiles and predatory risks on social networks.