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Ukrainian developers ask for support amid Russian invasion

Russian president Vladimir Putin deployed military forces Thursday morning

A forest outside Chernobyl Image: GSC Game World

Overnight, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into Ukraine — what he called a “special military operation,” and what Ukrainian foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba said is “a war of aggression.” Russian troops have moved into Ukraine on multiple fronts, and dozens of Ukrainians have died, Vox reported.

Game developers around Ukraine told Polygon last week they were preparing for the worst as the country braced for an attack. Some intended to move staff out of Ukraine, while others spoke of years of violence they’ve already lived through. On Thursday, following Russia’s initial attacks on Ukraine, Ukrainian game studio GSC Game World, in tandem with other companies and local esports players and teams, are now asking the global fanbase to support Ukraine and its army.

“As of today, the Russian Federation has officially declared war on Ukraine,” GSC Game World tweeted from both its official account and its STALKER Twitter page. “Our country woke up with the sound of explosions and weapons fire, but is ready to defend its freedom and independence, for it remains strong and ready for anything. The future is unknown, but we hope for the best, are ever sure of our armed forces and our belief in Ukraine.

“We thus address all of our colleagues in the gaming industry[,] players, bloggers or anyone who sees this post in their newsfeed. Share this, do not stand aside[,] and help those in need.”

GSC Game World points supporters to a National Bank of Ukraine account opened specifically to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

GSC Game World is based in the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, where explosions and gunfire have been reported. The BBC reports that Kyiv residents are taking refuge in shelters, while others are attempting to leave the city. Some residents, the BBC said, are moving about their day as normal. Vostok Games, another game studio based in Kyiv, posted a Ukrainian flag to Twitter Thursday morning.

Last week, Vostok Games business development director Oleg Yavorsky told Polygon the company has a plan for “potential relocation.” Other studios in Ukraine are taking similar measures, Axios reported.

“The current situation on the borders with Russia is tense, and we [have seen] multiple provocations happening over the last few days,” Yavorsky told Polygon. “We shouldn’t forget though that Ukraine has been in this state of aggression from Russia since 2014, and over 14,000 people [have been killed in that time]. So, unfortunately, we already got used to [living] in this state of danger.”

Beyond GSC Game World and Vostok Games, Ukraine has a prominent games industry community. Metro Exodus developer 4A Games was founded in Ukraine but moved to Malta following 2014’s violence. The Sinking City developer Frogwares is headquartered in Kyiv, and major publisher Ubisoft has offices in Ukraine. The country also has a growing indie game development scenes, as well as an active esports community.

Natus Vincere (Navi) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev tweeted Thursday morning that his city has been shelled. ZETA Division Apex Legends player Kirill “9impulse” Kostiv, a player from Belarus living in Kyiv, said Thursday he relocated to a shelter for a few hours before returning to his home in Kyiv.

Aleksey “WhiteRa” Krupnyk, a StarCraft 2 player based in Odessa, Ukraine, published a video showing people gathering in what looks to be a city square. He called Putin a “dictator,” and thanked fans for their international support.

Team Liquid founder and co-CEO Victor Goossens reported Thursday that Team Liquid has opened its Netherlands-based apartments to a Ukrainian player unable to travel back to the country. “We will open our Netherlands apartments for him and any of our friends or colleagues in a similar situation,” Goossens said.

Ukrainian-based esports team Navi has also issued a statement on Twitter regarding the attack. “Russia attacked Ukraine,” Navi tweeted. “And now there are hostilities that take human lives and destroy actual destinies on the territory of our country. It is impossible that during this war we pretend that everything is okay. It is not. We are devastated. Our main goal right now is to try to stay calm and take care of ourselves, our loved ones, and those who need help. We are all together in this. And together we’ll get through it.”

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