98: Worlds from The Zone

"For Naumov, the difference between looters and Stalkers is an important one: The Stalkers are the people who understand what has been lost and know the original inhabitants of the region took things not simply because of their monetary value, but because of what they symbolized - things such as the embossed sign above the Pripyat post office. As Naumov reported in one interview: 'It was last memory of Chernobyl. People were praying on this embossing as on an icon - waiting for letters from clean land.'"

Jim Rossignol explores the mythology and lore of the blighted Chernobyl region, as seen through the lens of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Worlds from The Zone

I've never played the game, but after reading the article I looked up both the book and movie that Rossignol mentioned in the article. The part of the article that struck me was how the developers were using their own culture's mythology and not using America's sometimes overwhelming "culture". I'd be more interested in playing games that had a unique mythology or point of view, rather than the common derivative American one. Anyone know of games like this?

Thanks for an excellent article on a game deserving of much commentary.

Playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. caused me to develop an obsessive fascination with Chernobyl. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this?

After doing some web research, picking up a copy of Svetlana Alexiavich's Voices of Chernobyl and Igor Kostin's photo-book Chernobyl: Confessions of a Reporter, a frightening story develops. In ways it's more bizarre and fantastical than David Cronenberg's films or The X-Files at its most paranoid-- Only it's real. The Elephant's Foot; The Red Forest; The Liquidators shovelling radioactive graphite into wheelbarrows; Truckloads of irradiated dog and cat carcasses.

"For some people, then, the idea that a commercial videogame should be made with a real-world disaster at its core might seem disrespectful, even exploitative."

I can't find any press reaction to this game from it's native land. Perception of it has got to be very different for a kid with thyroid problems playing it in Gomel, Minsk, or Kiev than for me playing it in healthy California. I'm interested in that.

The unlockable level late in the game where you get to run around the outside of the massive reactor 4 Sarcophagus, teleporting to different vantage points, has an atmosphere which seems anything but exploitative. It feels more like a poetic elegy, or an ode of some kind.

Though I find your idea of the 'Zone' concept as a "local myth" specific to post-Soviet consciousness compelling, I don't know if I completely agree with it; I think the 'Odyssey into the Forbidden Zone' motif is more of an archetypal thing, though it may be that the Soviets make better art out of it.

I am also not entirely sure of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as something which has shed the American paradigm. Sure it's setting and atmospherics indicate something specific and local. But the basic game mechanics-- running around, shooting mutants and guys in camouflage from a first person perspective-- are pure apple pie and hot dogs, despite the Tarkovskyian garnish.

(And thanks for the tip on Alexander Naumov-- I have to read more about this guy.)

The reactor was not poorly maintained, I believe. It's just that there were some experiments going on, and the staff decided to turn off some systems, that insured the safety of reactor's operation and could interfere with the tests. So, when they realised something went wrong, it was already too late.
The thing that fascinates me the most about the Chernobyl incident is the courage of people, who had to clean up all the radioactive mess. I've heard tales of liquidators, who worked in places, where even machines refused to operate. It's the kind of stories, that make you shiver both in terror and in awe, because you realise, that human body looks so fragile, but the mind, set on some goal, can make it the toughest thing in the world.

darshannon:
The thing that fascinates me the most about the Chernobyl incident is the courage of people, who had to clean up all the radioactive mess. I've heard tales of liquidators, who worked in places, where even machines refused to operate. It's the kind of stories, that make you shiver both in terror and in awe, because you realise, that human body looks so fragile, but the mind, set on some goal, can make it the toughest thing in the world.

And a great many of the Liquidators subsequently died or got sick. How many isn't known, there's never been a formal study of them. (Probably to the relief of the IAEA and other groups pushing for more nuke energy.)

Though many Liquidators were reservists not initially told where they were being deployed, they certainly had guts when they got there. From what I can tell a real culture of responsibility developed in a scary, chaotic place.

I've wondered what would happen if a similar thing were to transpire here in the US, in our more cynical advertising culture. I think even the military guys would refuse. Liquidators would have to be covicts made to do it at gunpoint. Now there's an FPS game scenario for you; "Diablo Canyon Revolt!"

David Miscavidge:

darshannon:
The thing that fascinates me the most about the Chernobyl incident is the courage of people, who had to clean up all the radioactive mess. I've heard tales of liquidators, who worked in places, where even machines refused to operate. It's the kind of stories, that make you shiver both in terror and in awe, because you realise, that human body looks so fragile, but the mind, set on some goal, can make it the toughest thing in the world.

And a great many of the Liquidators subsequently died or got sick. How many isn't known, there's never been a formal study of them. (Probably to the relief of the IAEA and other groups pushing for more nuke energy.)

Though many Liquidators were reservists not initially told where they were being deployed, they certainly had guts when they got there. From what I can tell a real culture of responsibility developed in a scary, chaotic place.

Yes, I know that. The soviet way was always this: achieve the goal, no matter the cost, and then forget about those, whose lives you paid with. That and the immortal principle, that my wife calls "if no one sees, then it's okay". It sounds a bit more elegant in russian, but you should get the point.
The most terrifying example of this was the immediate reaction at the Chernobyl catastrophe. There was a holiday, planned in Kiev several days after the incident. A political holiday. Many people were supposed to celebrate in the streets. Normal government would inform it's people of the incident and advise them to stay indoors (since Kiev is not that far from Chernobyl really). But all information was kept secret, and the celebration went as planned. It even got a bit more jolly, then it normally would, since all the trees have started to bloom at once. I bet it was a really pretty sight... to the people, who didn't know, it was caused by the radiation.

darshannon:
The most terrifying example of this was the immediate reaction at the Chernobyl catastrophe. There was a holiday, planned in Kiev several days after the incident.

Yup, the May-Day parade in Kiev is yet another really creepy part of the story. In Svetlana Alexiavitch's book Voices of Chernobyl, lots of her interviewees describe the parade. Some wondered why many party officials did not have their children with them (they had sent them away because of the disaster,) and why the ones who did had them bundled up in raincoats even though the weather was nice. I read also that films documenting the 1986 Mayday parade had subsequently disappeared from the Ukrainian archive.

At the eve of GSC being shut down, and the STALKER IP being in uncertainty, this article couldn't be sadder...

STALKER is a gem the like of which we'll probably not see for a long time.

 

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