Student Entrant 2021

University of Southern California (USC)
1986 CL3


Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov. These three men undertook a selfless mission to drain water trapped beneath the Chernobyl nuclear reactors in the immediate aftermath of the blast, and "Liquidators" is the only game that lets players experience how they managed to contain this catastrophe. Based on true events, this first-person, survival horror experience will have you traverse the radioactive bowels of the blast site, carefully orienting your every step based on the readings of your Geiger counter. Each liquidator has their own set of skills, from stamina to crawling in vents, that gives players a variety of ways to approach the hazardous challenges between them and the valves that will drain excess water destabilizing the reactor core. Whether they all make it out, or more importantly, succeed at all, is in your hands.

Liquidators started as a USC master's thesis project in 2019, with an interactive demo completed in just 2 days by a single student. It put the player in control of a single Chernobyl liquidator exploring a section of the destroyed reactor. After struggling to garner any external funding, it caught the attention of a few passionate students who wanted to see the demo flushed out to its full potential. The goal was clear from the very beginning: to create the most intense, edge-of-your-seat gameplay through systems such as permanence and unpredictability. After a few months of development, a playable demo of one section was released. The team was determined to make a complete experience, and after a few more months, the game was released on Steam, for free, to overwhelmingly positive reception. An Xbox port is currently being worked on.

This project is dedicated to all the liquidators, first responders, and support units that responded to the Chernobyl disaster. Through interactivity, people have a fresh way to experience the danger and horrors of their mission firsthand, with this being only one of many. It is our goal to raise awareness for the people that contained the fallout, which is why we have decided to go uncredited in the game. The focus of our game is squarely on them and the organizations that support those affected by this tragic moment in history. One such charity (who we independently chose to highlight) is Chernobyl Children International, who provides ongoing access to medical services and community support for children affected by the blast. We ask that players donate to this cause and others like it in lieu of paying for the game.