The whole world watched as an explosion took the roof off Fukushima 1. The situation is far from resolved. Thankfully, the crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant now appears to be stabilizing. Deactivating the reactors, however, could take decades.
For game developer Alexey Menshikov, it brought back memories of something close to Kiev, where his Ukrainian studio Beatshapers is based. It brought back memories of Chernobyl.
The Western media was quick to compare Chernobyl and Fukushima. The comparisons are not exactly correct. As Alexander Sich, the first American researcher to study the Chernobyl reactor meltdown on site, explains in The Diplomat, Fukushima is not like Chernobyl - for a myriad of reasons. The most straightforward is that Chernobyl didn't have the structural containment that Fukushima does. Sich's argument is well thought out, well supported and worth reading in full.
But for Menshikov, the comparisons weren't simply sensationalism, but concrete reminders of a catastrophic event. "Many people grew up within 70 kilometeres of the plant," Menshikov tells Kotaku. Then things at the Chernobyl plant went bad sometime after midnight. And they just got worse.
In the wake of the meltdown, Menshikov says, parents moved their kids as far away as possible for three months. "But still we have many cases of bad health," he adds. "The unfortunate thing is that most adults stayed in Kiev." As the WHO points out, contaminated food in the days following the meltdown was the cause for the high percentage of thyroid cancer, especially in children. Those in the surrounding areas have a lower life expectancy, which might not be due directly to radiation, but rather, anxiety and stress caused by fears of radiation.
Menshikov and the rest of the developers at Beatshapers keep an eye on the news in Japan as they ready their latest game, StarDrone, for an April release on the North American PlayStation Network. Beatshapers is also working on a version for the NGP. "Sony is finally doing it right - they are giving developers freedom and support with the development process," says Menshikov. "Everything is for developers, even for third parties, so we're very happy with development."
In Japan, the 20 kilometers surrounding the Fukushima plants have been evacuated. And residents are now living in a convention center in a Tokyo suburb. Sadly, they probably won't ever get to go home, leaving behind their houses and possessions - a life in a town they once called home.
The areas surrounding Chernobyl are a ghost-town, too. "They have a 30km zone closed and guarded," says Menshikov, who compares the area to something out of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. He's offered his assistance in helping people like Trey Ratcliff from website StuckInCustoms get in and take photos.
Menshikov recalls seeing a television show on Chernobyl a few years back in which Japanese specialists offered robots for the clean up effort at the Ukrainian plant because of the radiation. "Yet, they still had to use people to drop water on the reactor."
Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome - game related and beyond.