I open my eyes — outside it’s already light. I get out of bed, cover it with a khokhloma throw blanket, admire the dresser with porcelain dinnerware and go downstairs to have breakfast. On the way, I make sure to glance at the candle-lit icon and thank God before tucking in.
Downstairs, there is a stove and a dining table with a samovar, cherry pie and cabbage pirozhkis. Only, for some reason, I can’t eat them — only pick things up and throw them at the wooden wall.
There is no TV, let alone a computer, so, out of boredom, I go outside to the sound of birds singing and grasshoppers chirping. On the plot of land, I am greeted by the sight of an empty well, an old barn and the only living creature besides myself — a bull, gazing mournfully into the distance.
This is a description of the video game ‘Симулятор Одиночества В Русской Деревне’ (‘Simulator of Loneliness in a Russian Village’), released by Russian indie developer Flex Entertainment on Steam on April 9, 2021. It has no monsters (save perhaps for a few rats in the derelict buildings), complex storyline or quests — only an abandoned village in an unknown Russian province and the chance to feel the atmosphere as the sole inhabitant.
“Once there was a bustling life, however, the lack of work, entertainment and generally any prospects forced all the residents to leave. You are the only one who did not exchange wide fields, dense forests and a morning swim in the river for office work and a dull life in a nine-story panel house. From the point of view of the gameplay, this is a classic walking simulator in recognizable Russian scenery.
Just relax and spend time wandering through the sun-drenched forest and misty swamps, or explore the interiors of the canonical Russian hut, which has realistic graphics and the entire environment is worked out to the smallest detail,” reads the description on the game’s Steam page.
It is, indeed, a classic walking simulator. The only objective in the game is to explore your own property, study scrawled messages on the walls of the abandoned buildings, or wander through the dense forest, crossing swamps, rivers and small wooden bridges. If you max up the volume, it might seem you’re not alone in the village — every now and then what seems like footsteps and eerie creaking sounds can be heard. You can, like your erstwhile neighbors, try to escape to the city, but the mission is impeded by endless forest and no map. You might not even make it back home...
Unsurprisingly, some players complain that the game lacks action — you can’t climb on the stove, drink vodka or go to the banya. But the developers don’t promise entertainment, just total immersion in the atmosphere of an abandoned Russian backwater.
“The game’s creators highlight the acute topic of the dying Russian countryside, as well as the problem of loneliness and disconnection between people and their own inability and unwillingness to overcome these barriers,” the player by the name of ‘krtdn’ reflects philosophically in his review.
‘Simulator of Loneliness in the Russian Village’ is available on Steam in Russian only for 59 rubles (approx. $0.80).
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