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Game developers are helping to evacuate families from Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has evolved into a bloody siege. After 26 days of fighting, the United Nations reported that more than 3.5 million refugees fled the country. A quarter of Ukraine’s population of 44 million people have been displaced from their homes because of Russia’s gratuitous invasion. Outside the country, game developers are doing what they can to help individuals survive. In Ukraine, they are leaving their jobs to volunteer with their neighbours.

Last week Polygon spoke with Viktorija Trofimova, CEO of Lithaunia based Nordcurrent. The Ukraine-born executive employs more than 120 people at two studios in Ukraine, one in the central city of Dnipro and the other in the coastal city of Odessa. To date, she has helped 18 employees escape the country, providing transportation, temporary housing, and jobs for them and at least 23 family members and friends. Mainly women and children, they range in age from infants to the elderly. Many are expected to head to the company’s headquarters in Vilnius, Lithuania if Russian forces advance further north and west.

“City to city, the situation is very different,” said Trofimova. “Both our studios in Odessa and Dnipro were not affected or directly affected. Both cities were relatively quiet; Dnipro is calmer than Odessa. ”

The resort city of Odessa, located along the northern coast of the Black Sea, was heavily reinforced over the past few weeks. A city known for its cultural hubs and vibrant nightlife is said to have plenty of anti-tank defenses. To the east, Ukrainians see the coastal city of Mariupol as a grim warning. It was completely surrounded by Russian forces, with 80% of its buildings destroyed by shelling. Reports seem to indicate that civilians are forced detention and transported into the center of Russia without their passports. Russian warships, including Lander, was seen offshore. NPR reports that small Russian amphibious assault parties have been repulsed.

“Odessa has seen more bombings,” Trofimova said, “but there was no kind of activity on the ground, like you see in Kyiv or Kharkiv. To some extent, studios work. Everyone works. But this varies from day to day and it is certainly not regular, or normal. In Odessa there is always this threat that [the] the next day there will be a direct attack, and that has been going on since day one. “

Meanwhile, in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the normal daily activities have given way to volunteering.

Yaroslav Singaevskiy, lead game designer at Red Beat, told Polygon via email. “The central and western regions of our country are relatively safe (Russia can still deliver missiles anywhere).”

“For our team’s actual gamedev work [is] remains a secondary priority,” he continued, “because our main efforts are directed at defensive needs – mostly volunteer work. We still hope that [the] The war may end in the coming weeks, not months, and we will do our best for that.”

Wael Amr, CEO of Kyiv .-based developer Frogssomewhat less hopeful.

“The city is growing strong but when you look at what the Russians have done with places like Mariupol, it is getting tougher,” he told Polygon in an email. “Just this weekend they hit a big shopping mall in the heart of Kyiv with long-range cruise missiles. A target with no military value whatsoever. Just trying harder [to] starve and break people. […] We are also beginning to notice early signs of what could be called [post-traumatic stress disorder] among some of our groups who have fled the hardest hit areas. ”

Humanitarian aid continues to pour into the country, along with other game developers around the world do what they can to support the people of Ukraine. In Monday, Reported polygons those two game packs – Ukraine Humble Bundleand a pack on itch.io – has raised more than 17 million dollars. Epic Games, producer Fortnitesay it has increased more 36 million dollars.

Although a lot of money, it is a small drop compared to the domestic devastation. A Ukrainian official a few weeks ago estimated that the Russian invasion caused $100 billion in damaged infrastructure alone.

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