Ukraine's gamers take to the streets in protest

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Ukraine: Unchanged. Ukraine remains divided today between those who favor integration into the European Union to the West, and those who prefer cozier ties with Russia to the East. President Viktor Yanukovych has flip flopped on the issue, sparking the recent wave of protests in Kiev. The pro-EU crowd includes some of Ukraine's most successful video game developers? Yeah, that's a big deal in a country where online games are a $40 million industry. Colin Campbell is a reporter for Polygon, a website devoted to video gaming. He says the protests in Kiev literally brought game designers together.

Colin Campbell: These guys all work together in Kiev and they were coming down to the protests to support the integration with the EU. And they saw each other and they started talking to each other, and they were blogging and they were inviting each other to meet and to protest together.

Werman: So what unites them politically? I mean how does the gaming industry stand to benefit from Ukraine joining with the European Union?

Campbell: I think what unites them is that they're young urban people and they do most of their business with the west. And so naturally they want a political system that is more open. When I spoke to them they said that one of the frustrations with the government that they have is that they don't feel as if it's particularly inviting for western companies. And some companies have set up in Ukraine because they like doing business there, but the locals feel that they could do a lot more to be more welcoming.

Werman: So they believe that aligning the country with the EU would make business easier for them.

Campbell: Well, certainly, they have a lot of customers in the east, in Russia, but a lot of those customers are actually buying their product through American portals. 

Werman: Would you say that these game designers are part of the kind of upwardly mobile class in Ukraine made rich by technology?

Campbell: Yeah, I think they define that class and I think that they are admired by other young people. You know, like Italian people they reach large global audiences. They tend to be quite vocal in their opinions, they have blogs, they speak to the media, so they're sort of the generation that is embracing the west with ?02:02 technology.

Werman: Do you have a sense of why there are so many game designers in Ukraine?

Campbell: It goes back a long way. I mean during the Cold War years there was a lot of young men who were very keen to get their hands on home computers and they were spending a lot of time playing video games, and those are the guys that are now coming through...they're in their 30s and 40s now, they understand the technology and they understand how video games work. And they work terrifically hard. They have great ideas and their games are popular.

Werman: What about games particularly designed with the protests in mind. Is that they kind of thing they might even be thinking about out on the street?

Campbell: Well, I mean it takes time to create a video game, but I understand that they've been meeting, they've been talking, they've definitely seen more video games that come from a personal point of view that has something to say. And the problem is that they do take a little bit of time to create, so it's difficult to see a video games coming out about an event that happened yesterday, but you might see something that is about a broader issue, like there was a game made this year about global slavery. And there's a game out this year called Papers Please, which is about an immigration checkpoint and it really helps you to understand the issues of living in a place like that.

Werman: Colin Campbell with Polygon, a website devoted to video gaming, thank you.

Campbell: Thank you.