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I Lived Through Russia’s Invasion Of Kyiv, Then Atomic Heart Dev Mundfish Blocked Me On Twitter

I moved to Kyiv, Ukraine in 2017 and was in the capital on February 24, 2022, when Russia began its indescribably brutal full-scale invasion of the country. Compared to what people I know went through or are still going through, I had a relatively easy experience. I spent a week sleeping in a basement and would spend some of the days in my apartment, hearing the sound of explosions from time to time. Whether they were close or not was hard to tell. If they were miles away they still sounded like they came from two blocks down and shook my apartment’s walls. I made it back to the United States in early April but I have returned to Ukraine since then as the war continues to destroy innocent lives all over the country. Recently, I tweeted at Russian developer Mundfish, creators of the upcoming Atomic Heart, and asked why the devs had not said one word about Russia’s actions against Ukraine. The developers promptly blocked me without a response.

I made the question as simple and non-combative as it could possibly be – and with a typo to boot. It was not meant to be accusatory, but to simply inquire as to why they have been silent for all these months while Russia continuously escalates its terror tactics against a bordering nation. It was apparently too much for the developer, or whoever runs their Twitter account, to handle, so they chose to silence the voice of somebody directly affected by the war.

Would Mundfish speaking out against their country’s invasion end it? Of course not. Would it get the company in trouble? Maybe, but that shouldn’t be a barrier to speaking out. Those who worry about Russian public figures, companies, and individuals getting in trouble over the lives of Ukrainians have to remember that Ukraine had two revolutions in 20 years against corruption and Russian influence in government. The second of these, 2013 and 2014’s Euromaidan, killed over one hundred innocent people.

Even the US had anti-war movements that ended in civilian deaths. Four people died on May 4, 1970 at the Kent State Campus protesting the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. At the same time when so many excuse Russians’ silence and apathy, Iranians are taking to the streets despite extremely violent crackdowns by the government in power whose cruelty against protestors we might never truly know. While Mundfish might not support the war, its silence tells us nothing, and with the lack of evidence, it’s a fair assumption that it does. At the very least, their inaction only helps Russia’s efforts.

Understanding the relationship between Ukrainians and Russians is also key to understanding why Ukrainians can’t trust a Russian game developer to be anti-war if it doesn’t take action or, at the very least, explicitly state that it is against the invasion. Many Ukrainians have family members, acquaintances, and friends in Russia who were born or moved there years ago. After February 24, many of these connections either ceased communication entirely or outwardly approved of Russia’s invasion. This isn’t to say that Russians everywhere necessarily support the invasion, but they have lost the benefit of the doubt for Ukrainians.

Atomic Heart’s setting also needs to be brought up. It is an alternate history science fiction shooter taking place in the Soviet Union. We often see the USSR and its imagery used as a humorous or fun aesthetic in fiction. Just look at the Red Guardian, played by David Harbour, in the MCU. To people from countries that were once a part of the USSR – what many would more accurately describe as an occupation – the Soviet Union is not a fun aesthetic to drape over a story. It is a reminder of invasions, genocides, famine, and cultural erasure. The hammer and sickle is associated with penal colonies, mass executions, forced deportations, and russification.

To be fair, we don’t know exactly what Atomic Heart will be about. Wolfenstein: The New Order, for example, uses its alternate history where the Third Reich won World War 2 to make poignant commentary about fascism. However, Russia’s history and attitude toward its Soviet past doesn’t give me hope that it will approach the topic with sensitivity or have anything important to say about it. In fact, a recent event for the game had guests sitting at tables while banners written in Russian had phrases like “glory to the Soviet engineers.”

Am I asking you to boycott Atomic Heart? Would you boycott it if Ukrainians requested? Whether I suggest it to you or not, my story and the story of many Ukrainians should be enough to make a decision for you based on the type of person you are. A bigger, more impactful decision would be if Microsoft reconsidered its deal to put Atomic Heart on Game Pass. Ideally, both Microsoft and Sony would refuse to release any Russian games until Russia pulls every one of its soldiers out of Ukraine. At the end of the day, do you really want to play a game from a developer that can’t so much as take two seconds out of their day to type “war is bad, one country shouldn’t invade the other?”

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