In 1986 a catastrophic disaster at the Chernobyl Power Plant in Pripyat shocked the world, serving as a stark reminder of the devastating power nuclear energy wields.
Today, in a collection of Moscow's abandoned buildings, you'll find a group of gamers acting their own grim fantasy, pretending to survive in the explosion's irradiated "dead zone."
Live-action role-playing (or LARPing) relies on a group of participants who remain in character, interacting with each other in a fictionalized space within the real world. LARP games are usually structured around a pre-arranged context or scenario, this particular one taking place in Russia's post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The scenario is actually based off the first-person survival game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, with the players' costumes and characters taking inspiration from the unforgivingly bleak franchise.
Players scavenge Moscow's deserted concrete pockets for magical 'artefacts' which bestow special benefits, such as the ability to cure diseases.
One of the players, Nicolas, says:
They keep adding fantastical elements to this and similar games each year. The games reflect the danger posed by the uncontrollable use of nuclear power.
Another player, Nikolai Gorshkov, was just a baby at the time of the tragic Chernobyl incident. His grandfather, a policeman, was sent to the disaster zone to help with the evacuation procedures. Like many others who risked radiation to save lives, he later died from cancer.
Choosing to live in a desperate, resource-depleted wasteland might seem like a strange way to spend one's free time, but LARPing has an undeniable appeal. In this case, it seems to be as much about escapism as it is about confronting history's darkest moments.
Have you ever participated in a LARP?