A Counter-Strike in the Information War
You’ve heard of the Ukraine war by now. You’ve seen staggering support from western countries, supplying Ukraine in the hopes that Russia will back down. But if you’re in Russia, you may have heard a different story. You wouldn’t have seen it called a “war”, for starters. But there’s good odds you play Counter-Strike – and if you do, there’s another way you can find the news that Russia’s government would try to bury.
But first, let’s rewind a bit. “Helsingin Sanomat” is a Finnish newspaper, the largest in the region – and naturally, they wanted to do some reporting on the Ukraine conflicts. Russia may have locked down their own news outlets with national policy, but this Finnish publication isn’t exactly keen to follow them. When Russia catches wind of this, they just block their website wholesale.
Enter a funny little Counter-Strike map called de_voyna. The map is, for the most part, just like any other. The name is even fairly generic: voyna simply meaning “war” in Russian. It’s a word that Russian media is forbidden to use, but hey, nothing here would raise many flags.
There are little signs in the map. A trail of breadcrumbs for players to follow, into a secret bunker. News of Ukraine covers the walls. Photographs, headlines, the works – all stuff that the Russian government would rather suppress.
Antero Mukka, editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat, had an interview with the CBC to elaborate on their thought process.
“It’s part of our message that in the digital world, you can’t close up any society, because [information] leaks anyway.”
“Russians have also [the] right to know, and I wish them to be able to read reliable information [and] make their own choices,”
“The Russians are a big group in Counter-Strike players and they are part of the global community, so we hope that when players start playing this map and it becomes popular within the Counter-Strike community then also the Russians will know this and will start playing“.