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Atomic Heart composer donates fee to Ukraine fund amid game’s controversial Russia links

As developer Mundfish equivocates, Mick Gordon takes a stand

A soviet style poster showing some kind of mind link device looms over a canal street decorated with balloons, with a huge statue of a figure holding an atom in the distance Image: Mundfish/Focus Entertainment
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Video game composer Mick Gordon has said he has donated his free for writing music for the game Atomic Heart to the Red Cross’ Ukraine Crisis Appeal.

Atomic Heart, due for a Feb. 21 release on Game Pass, Windows PC, PlayStation, and Xbox next week, is made by Mundfish, a studio that was founded in Moscow, Russia, but recently moved its headquarters to Cyprus. Mundfish has attracted controversy for its refusal to comment directly on Russia’s war in Ukraine, and for the heavy use of Soviet imagery in the game.

Gordon, who is Australian, tweeted that his donation was made to “stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” In a statement, the Doom and Doom Eternal composer describes himself as “horrified” by the “immense suffering” caused by Russia’s invasion. “This invasion was not a decision of the Russian people but rather an authoritarian regime that disregards human rights and dignity,” he said. He said he chose the Red Cross as a “pro-peace organization” that will “provide practical support for those whose lives have been impacted by the war.”

Gordon only had praise for Mundfish in his statement, saying he’d been drawn to the project by its “unique aesthetic,” combined with his “musician’s love for Soviet-era synthesizers.”

“Working with Mundfish is an absolute delight, as they prioritise imagination and artistic freedom,” Gordon said.

In a further statement to Eurogamer, Gordon said, “I understand that the situation in the region is incredibly difficult and that many people have been affected by the conflict. I want to make it very clear that I vehemently condemn Putin’s violent aggression toward Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. [...] My motivations are solely to support the Ukrainian people affected by the conflict.”

Gordon once again sought to separate Mundfish from the actions of the Russian government, and its own Russian roots. “I believe it is important to separate the actions of a government from the actions of individual citizens,” he told Eurogamer. “The game is a truly international effort, with 130 developers contributing to the project from more than 10 different countries. I deeply respect the artistry and creativity that went into the development of Atomic Heart.”

Gordon’s donation must be recognized, first and foremost, as an act of humanity and generosity toward a population in great need of support. But it does seem notable that he goes out of his way to defend Mundfish’s reputation, as well as to make an unequivocal statement on the war that Mundfish seems either unwilling, or unable due to the political climate in Russia, to make.

I previewed Atomic Heart last month. At the time, Mundfish issued a scrupulously neutral statement. “We want to assure you that Mundfish is a developer and studio with a global team focused on an innovative game and is undeniably a pro-peace organization against violence against people. We do not comment on politics or religion,” the statement read. Since then, the studio has also denied claims that it collects data on players for Russian security services. The claims were made in an article that states that Mundfish has investors with close links to the Russian state.

What’s clear from playing the game is that, whatever the political alignment of its makers, it is a deeply culturally Russian product. This will present a major barrier to enjoyment for some players; Gordon is doing his best to break this barrier down, but it’s a big ask.