Ukrainian developers open up about making games during wartime

Ukrainian developers are giving gamers a powerful look at the impacts of Russia’s invasion of their country.

Driving the news: Those glimpses have appeared online over the past few days in the midst of digital showcases of upcoming video games.

  • Such events are generally stuffed with flashy trailers and narrated with promotional talking points.
  • Not so, for a few minutes each during two recent shows.

What they’re saying: “We have air raid sirens around the clock,” says Taras Kukurian, community manager at Ukraine-based studio GSC Game World, as he walks amid shattered buildings in a video released yesterday as part of an Xbox showcase.

  • “For 3 months, I live and work in this corridor,” says narrative designer Dariia Tsepkova, gesturing to the narrow space she shares with a one-eyed dog she says was rescued from the shelling of the city of Hostomel.
  • Some of the GSC developers got out of the country. Others did not. Some try to continue development. Others appear in fatigues, saying they’re fighting to defend their country.
  • What they expected to be doing and what some still are doing is make STALKER 2, a first-person shooter that the war has delayed until 2023.
  • Says the writer Tsepkova: “It’s not easy to write violent quests when there’s a war outside your window.”

During the weekends Future Games Show, several independent Ukrainian developers shared their experiences living under siege.

The big picture: Games aren’t just played by people around the world. They’re made by people around the world.

  • That creates an opportunity to connect players to events happening far from their homes.
  • The invasion of Ukraine has been widely discussed in gaming. Support for Ukraine from the culture and the industry has been prominent.

The bottom line: These showcase videos were a moment to bring the tragedy of the invasion back to the fore.

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