“Open the door! Hurry, or we’ll break the door!”
Oleksi didn’t want to let the Russians in, but he didn’t want to fight them either.
Huddled in the basement, desperate to keep the invading soldiers from noticing his presence, the silence was broken by the sound of rifles slamming against the door.
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Armed forces descended the stairs, seemingly ready to use their weapons.
“We are searching houses for Nazis and vandals,” one said. “Did you know there were Nazis in this city?”
Alexa ponders how to respond – is he acting stupid? Provide false leads? Under the auspices of Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation”, would he dare to tell the deceived corporal?
Such life-and-death decisions have become a feature of life Ukraine – A team in Kyiv aims to bring home for people all over the world.
It’s ostensibly a video game – but Call of Duty, it’s not.
Offering three narratives based on first-person experiences and eyewitness accounts, Ukrainian War Stories is a series of interactive visual novels that focus on the survival of the country’s civilian population.
Oleksiy’s confrontation with Russian troops is just one of the big decisions you may face, and the developers hope it will humanize the kind of headlines far-flung observers have been reading on their phones since February.
“Many war games turn a blind eye to the suffering of civilians,” said Oleksandr Sienin of Starni Games, an independent studio based in the Ukrainian capital.
“In this project, what civilians experience becomes the focus. Our goal is to educate people around the world about what’s going on here.”
Ukrainian War Story takes players to the towns of Bucha and Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, where mass graves were discovered It is one of the evidences that Russian soldiers are suspected of war crimes.
Among those who lived through the occupation were Stani’s Oleksandr Androshchuk and his family, who hid from the Russians in the basement of his garage for a week, and their experiences have been incorporated into the story.
“They went out during the evacuation, but there were already dead people on the street,” his colleague said.
This authentic experience is the basis of every scene in the game.
“In one of the stories, you play a 16-year-old, and your sister has been captured,” Mr. Sienin said.
“Are you leaving her behind and running away with your life, or are you trying to save her, which could turn out badly?”
Another story takes you to Mariupol, Weeks of relentless shelling devastated the port city.
There, you take on the role of a doctor, forced to choose who they save – there are too many wounded in the hospital and it may not be possible to help them all.
As studio founder Ihor Tymoshenko puts it, “Medical staff must play God.”
“Nobody knows how powerful their missiles are”
It’s hard enough to make a game under normal circumstances, but what about in war?
“Our company was working fine before the war, and I think we are working fine now,” Mr Tymoshenko said, adding that most of the 25-person team has been working since June. All returned to the office.
Since then, most of the fighting has been concentrated in eastern Ukraine, despite deadly drone strikes on the city Earlier this month A reminder of how fragile any normal feeling is.
“I got up after Ihor called me to say the war had started,” Mr Sienin recalled on February 24.
“We had a colleague who was always in the office early, like 6 in the morning, so he was there when the war started.
“After that, everyone stayed home, no one was working for the first few weeks, we just passed the wages on to people and everyone had to do what they thought was right.
“Some people left Kyiv, some people stayed. I stayed, the first few weeks were busy, there were sirens, there were missile strikes, and no one knew how powerful they were.
“Everybody was hiding in the basement or underground. We spent half the time there, running back and forth.
“A lot of people had to leave, but we got through.”
‘We have to fight as hard as we can’
For some members of the Starni team, returning home was impossible.
Working remotely from Mariupol, one was prevented from reaching the rest of Ukraine when the city was occupied, and instead saw himself forced through a filter camp into Russia.
They managed to unite with people they knew and then fled to Poland.
For Tymoshenko, who volunteered eight years ago to bring medical supplies to the front lines of the original invasion of eastern Ukraine, he felt a duty to bring these stories home to the people.
“I thought, what are we going to do? Sitting at home and doing nothing?” he said.
“No – we are free men and we have to fight to the best of our ability.”
“I’d rather people start wars in games than in real life”
The release of the Ukrainian War Story is ironic.
It arrives the same week that the latest Call of Duty debuts — a massive franchise that has become an industry juggernaut by producing mind-blowing entertainment from Modern Warfare.
Starni Games also has a long history in war games – its strategic thinking series puts players in control of WWII-era battles.
“I think people have no problem liking a game like Call of Duty,” Mr. Sienin said.
“But people have to understand that war is not a call of duty.
“This mentality of not dealing with any issues in the game is changing, but slowly. I hope it might turn into something more thought-provoking than pure entertainment.
“But look, I’d rather people wage wars in games than in real life.
“When the Russians threatened our country, I told my colleagues…maybe we should send Putin A piece of strategic thinking so he can play it on the computer without hacking us! “
Ukrainian War Story has an 88% rating on Steam so far, from nearly 200 user reviews.
Criticisms dismissed it as “anti-Russian propaganda”. Others describe it as “boring”.
“Games are mainly entertainment, and entertainment brings some joy to people,” Mr. Tymoshenko said.
“But war is horrible and dirty, and the media has to tell people that.”
Ukrainian War Story is now free on Steam.