Screenshot of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Because Andrei Tarkovsky‘s critically-acclaimed 1979 film Stalker (loosely based on the Russian sci-fi novel Roadside Picnic) eerily foreshadowed the tragic Chernobyl nuclear disaster—preceding the calamity by about seven years—much is to be said about film’s cultural relevance.
If you don’t know the film, it’s an artful depiction of a character aptly named “the Stalker” who leads two other characters, “the Writer” and “the Professor,” into “the Zone” in order to find “the Room”—a place where wishes are granted to all who enter… sounds sketchy doesn’t it?
Stalker (1979) Director’s Cut
While the film’s main struggle is purely internal and more focused on character development than plot (SPOILER ALERT: no one gets their wishes granted), Ukranian video game developer GSC Game World’s first-person shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy for PC makes up for the real-life roughness that the film lacks.
Compared to the clean aesthetic and stylistic choices of the film, the video game series is a gritty, animalistic take on survival after a second, futuristic nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. The storyline is non-linear and players are free to explore the world on whim, destroying any possible hindrance along the way—really, what more could you want in a video game (kidding!).
It’s brillance lies in the A-Life feature, which means that all the characters and situations you see or run into go completely unaffected by your actions.
It’s the games’ nonchalant indifference in the face of disaster that proves to be the existential crisis blowing up in your face. Check out clips of the games below to see what we mean.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky (2009)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (2010)
Read a more in-depth dissection of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series’ significance over at The New York Review.