'Mariam,' a new Saudi-produced online horror game is not only sending shivers down players' spines, it's now become a source of concern for authorities and social experts in the UAE.
According to Gulf News, Sharjah and Dubai Police have issued warnings against the game, urging parents not to allow their children to play it.
Apart from its frightening audio and visual effects, the game, which has been trending in the past few weeks, relies heavily on collecting players' personal and private information for that extra dose of shock and awe.
That data could be used by other parties for "phishing, theft, or extortion," Colonel Obaid Saleh Hassan, an IT specialist at Sharjah Police, said.
'Mariam' revolves around a lost child whom players are supposed to help guide home.
Throughout the game, players are asked personal questions, like, "Where is your home located" and "What's your Facebook account".
It even goes so far as to ask players political questions, including one about the Qatar crisis, Gulf News reports.
A player cannot proceed to the next level without answering the questions.
Since the game gained popularity in the region, experts are warning against its risks, noting that the questions asked might be a way to hack into the player's device.
Dubai police have urged people to be responsible and take the consequences of the game seriously, with Major-General Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, Assistant to the Dubai Police Chief for Criminal Investigation Affairs, warning players against it.
Al Mansouri noted that 'Mariam' can retrieve players' pictures from their galleries as well as all confidential information found on their smart phones.
Experts have echoed the police's concerns, with some comparing it to the international challenge game 'Blue Whale' that has reportedly pushed teens around the world to self-harm and suicide.
Developers defend 'Mariam'
The game’s developer, Salman Al Harbi, refuted the accusations, saying, "It is just a game for entertainment; it doesn't save the answers, and thus there's no abuse of one's privacy."
Similarly, technology expert Yaser Al Rahely said that the rumors about the game hacking into players' systems are untrue, according to Al Arabiya.
Meanwhile, social media users have mixed feelings about 'Mariam', with some defending the game and others calling for it to be banned.
"The game is dangerous"
"The game represents the dangers of neuro-linguistic software with personal charisma. The answer is clear from the title ... The game is dangerous."
"#Ban_Mariam_Game The game speaks about politics and cutting ties between Qatar and the [Gulf] countries. Be careful and keep an eye on your children."