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Making games and breakdancing in the former USSR: The story of Contre Jour

The small caravan comes to a stop about 30 minutes from town. Outside the cars, the thick, moist air is heavy with the smell of earth, grass and manure.

It's been drizzling for days, but the ground here is merely damp. Nothing left for puddles; the soil has snatched up all the water for itself.

Two horses, tied together by one ankle with a short leather strap, graze on the rich green lawn half a block away. Closer, some chickens scratch along the edge of a lush vegetable garden. A stray cat grooms itself on the rim of a wide concrete well.

These are the suburbs of Lviv, Ukraine. Elsewhere in Western Europe, this area might be mistaken for rural, but here it's where wealthy people live — a thin crust of land between the dense, timeless city and the barren countryside.

Past the chickens and the horses, past the well and the cat, inside the ground floor of this apartment building is a modern recording studio. It is equipped with thick foam baffles, delicate microphones and the best mixing equipment available in Ukraine. Maksym Hryniv has come here with his composer, Igor Bryshlyak, to record vocals for the soundtrack of a new game.

Before the war, I had the privilege of spending time with Maksym Hryniv, one of Ukraine's most interesting independent game developers.

 

©2020 by Charlie Hall. Cover photo by Robin Baumgarten.