They approach the camp alone at night. It’s dark, but you don’t want them to know where you are – so keep your flashlight in your pocket. You can barely make out the enemy’s positions, your only reference being the lights peeking out from under the barrels of their weapons. You move to the site’s side, a remnant of a village – four houses, stone, broken, and a campfire poking through the shattered roof of the northwesternmost building.
You’ll find a hole in a nearby wall and lean right to give your weapon the room it needs to breathe. Your Geiger counter clicks, slices through the night, and a nearby bandit quickly aims his flashlight in your direction. You pull the trigger. violence happens. The man’s flashlight breaks, and soon the night is lit only by a dying campfire and the rapid flash of muzzle flash. It’s a long night, STALKER – four men dead at the end. And you hear the blind dogs howling, always hungry, a few miles away. They search the bodies. One of the men is carrying an ID card.
His name was Sanek hedgehog.
This story is probably the clearest pitch I can give you for it STALKER games. The series, like many cult classics from the early and mid-2000s, defies easy description. It is a series of first-person shooters loosely based on the 1979 film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. stalker, and the book on which the same film is based, Roadside picnic. Both properties feature significantly fewer shots than their video game adaptations, but that’s not really at the heart of what ties these works together. stalker
stalker (the film) is set in an unnamed region of a Soviet state and follows the journey of three men to a strange area called “The Zone”. The zone is filled with strange anomalies, dangers, and a place called “The Room” that is said to grant the truest wishes of whoever enters it. People who venture into the zone are called stalkers and have a strange connection to the place. Like most of Tarkovsky’s films, stalker is less interested in a traditional narrative than in highly expressive visual poetry. It’s a movie with several minutes long shots, with the average shot being around 60 seconds. For reference, the most recent avenger Film had an average recording length of about three seconds. It is an extremely slow, meditative film that works almost exclusively with visual metaphors. It’s, if you haven’t been able to tell by now, easily one of my favorite films of all time.
You might be wondering how a movie best described as “visual poetry” inspired a first-person shooter series — which is a good question until you actually see it STALKER games in motion. The video game series is set in the Chernobyl area, where radiation from the (real) 1986 nuclear disaster completely transformed the local ecosystem and landscape. Most trees are bare, all animals are mutated, and strange anomalies mark the terrain – pulsing with impossible gravity, igniting eternal fires and unleashing raging lightning bolts. It’s an incredibly strange, hostile place that’s also unmistakably beautiful.
The landscape is barren and the beauty comes from the distance. The spacing between the trees is just right, the occasional flash of an anomaly just frightening enough to portray the surroundings as alien and hostile. About half a mile away, a pack of blind dogs is playing fiercely with each other. You calm your movements so they ignore you. On the opposite side of the street you’re walking down (to muffle your footsteps) is a corroding tractor. Maybe years ago there was a field here.
The games, like the film, are a meditative experience where strange beauty is punctuated by overwhelming stillness and stillness. Time passes more slowly in the Zone. This quiet beauty is riddled with bouts of chaotic violence. STALKER
If that’s the case, you’ll scramble to snag a new – hopefully more reliable – firearm off the ground. It will eventually fail you too, but not before this fight ends. And it ends when you put a few rounds in the back of a man laying suppressive fire at your last known position (the enemy AI is still some of the best in a first-person shooter). You will then loot the bodies hoping to recover your lost ammo and maybe find something of value.
The zone is extremely dangerous, and resources are scarce, at least initially. the STALKER Games require your constant attention while you search for your next meal. PDAs are scattered about the corpses you leave behind, some of which point you to useful but sometimes dangerous supply caches. If you’re lucky, you might come across a military-style assault rifle that will last longer than a few gunfights. If you’re unlucky, you’ll encounter a nightmarish mutant who could unleash a psychic attack on you – leaving you reeling in the dirt and clutching your head.
The importance of objects, space and sparse beauty for the STALKER Games are a big part of why fans have reacted so aggressively to them the introduction (and then resign) from NFTs to the upcoming STALKER 2. The games, like the film and book before it, take an interest in the objects that fill our lives – from the various trinkets that float in Tarkovsky’s famous river scene to the alcohol bottles, meat cans and personal trinkets that fill the pockets Bandits chasing you through the ruins of Chernobyl. They are finely crafted and personal worlds, and weird consumer bullshit has no place there – except as an object of ridicule.
The original film is a critique of socialist realism, a school of film that is rarely more than propaganda (there are a great Maggie Mae Fish video on this very topic if it is of interest to you). She believed in the values and rules of the Soviet regime as natural facts inherent in the world. stalker defied this narrative by demanding that his audience for once actually feel something and realize that love and their human desires are at the core of their being.
the STALKER Games similarly feel suspicious of the dog-eat-dog reality of post-Soviet capitalism and the scavenging it encourages. People foolishly enter the zone hoping to find trinkets and wonders to sell to the highest bidder. After all, the logistics of the hunt consume them. You forego the sale altogether. Her life falls to the rhythm of violence and overwhelming emotions. No wonder the sale of NFTs upset fans of the series so much. It’s at odds with the games’ belief in human emotions and chaotic desires.
Despite this misstep, I remain very excited STALKER 2, because it will be nothing if not interesting to see the series translated into modern game design, even if it ends up not being very good. For those of you who enjoyed this pitch in the series I can’t recommend enough to go back to the earlier games in the series – they’re great and very cheap for how excellent they are. Plus, you’ll have a plethora of excellent mods to dig into once you’ve gotten acquainted with their brutal world.
Good luck STALKER