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(Anti)Colonial Anti-Communism in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl: Appropriating the Anti-Colonial Rhetoric of Heart of Darkness and F.E.A.R. to Criticize Soviet Communism

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(Anti)Colonial Anti-Communism in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl: Appropriating the Anti-Colonial Rhetoric of Heart of Darkness and F.E.A.R. to Criticize Soviet Communism

Abstract: This article analyses the anti-communist rhetoric of the popular Ukrainian video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl which was developed by GSC Game World and released in 2007. In this paper I argue that, in order to mount a humanist critique against Soviet communism, the game borrows the anti-colonial discursive structure of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness filtered through the video game F.E.A.R. If colonialism is predicated on the juxtaposition of territorial expansion and a progressive temporality towards a civilizational ideal, then Heart of Darkness and F.E.A.R. convey a critique of colonialism by highlighting how spatial progress brings about temporal regression manifested as a dissolution of the self. To show this, they employ the doppelgänger convention. Both protagonists representing white civilization are on quest to find a character who has been ‘contaminated’ by the ‘heart of darkness.’ This latter character is eventually revealed to be a negative cultural doppelgänger of the protagonist who has assimilated otherness to the point of no return. By the same token, in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl the psychological regression of the protagonist is mapped onto spatial progress towards the heart of communism, in this case Reactor #4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. reworks the doppelgänger convention by identifying the protagonist with the character ‘gone native,’ i.e. gone communist, not only symbolically, but also physically. This enables the game to put forth two scenarios, namely one where the main character overcomes communism, and one where he embraces it. By offering both endings, the game maintains two contradictory views on the communist past. One ending suggests that communism can eventually be overcome, while the other postulates the communist past is here to stay.

Keywords: postcolonialism/postcommunism; intertextuality; intermediality; horror; first-person shooter; doppelgänger.

Citation suggestion: Nae, Andrei. “(Anti)Colonial Anti-Communism in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Appropriating the Anti-Colonial Rhetoric of Heart of Darkness and F.E.A.R. to Criticize Soviet Communism.” Transilvania, no. 4 (2022): 15-21.

https://doi.org/10.51391/trva.2022.04.02.

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