Ulitsa Dimitrova

Homeless and Nicotine Deprived

Free Download
Lea Schonfelder and Gerard Delmas

In Ulitsa Dimitrova, you play Pyotr, a seven year-old homeless boy in St. Petersburg. The graphics are stark pen drawings, the music an annoying recorder tune. You are a chain smoker, and need to obtain cigarettes. You can break the Mercedes medallions off cars and sell them, and smash shop windows to steal stuff, as well as beg passersby for money. You can also encounter your mom, a prostitute, who will give you some money in exchange for booze, as she is an alcoholic.

If you fail to keep going, you get tired, have a nicotine withdrawal fit, lie down, are covered with snow, and die.

Once the transgressive nature of the subject material is experienced, you realize there's really nothing much to this game; no progress, no strategy, nothing but repetitive experience. As a game qua game, in other words, it sucks, really.

The sadness of its subject material is worth exploring; this is obviously not an emotion much explored in games. Yet it's notable in another way; this is not a game with remote commercial potential (nor is it intended to be such), but it is actually well suited to a particular ecosystem that has not existed in games until recently: It works very well in a festival setting. In such a setting, there are a bunch of games on a bunch of machines, and you move from one to the other. A game with depth that might take some time to get into does not shine here, because few will devote more than a few minutes to any title. Contrariwise, a game with shocking subject material and an unusual visual style will gain considerable attention, and the fact that there's no more than a few minutes of gameplay is irrelevant, since nothing will get more than a few minutes of gameplay.

Ulitsa Dimitrova was a 2010 IGF Student Showcase nominee.


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The one bit I found

The one bit I found interesting from the game was that the news stand you buy cigarettes from looks like it also sells socks. Given that the character was barefooted, there's obviously a statement there.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green

It's a bit tame, isn't it ?

If you're going for pathos, you might as well make the child one-handed, one-legged, HIV-infected, one-eyed and having at least a dozen cancers !

A matter of perspective.

Curiously enough, the child seems pretty content with his situation- His mother loves him, the passers by are kind-ish, and he can get plenty of cigarettes to satisfy his smoking habit (plus there's that girl- the moment when she is taken away is the only one when he seems sad). And the soundtrack is in major. Arguably the moral of this game could the same one found in the fable of the two frogs- things are only bad for the person who gives up. The tragedy of this game (until the end) is entirely in the eye of the beholder (that's us), who, having perspective, can see that the child is homeless, chain smoking, has no real prospects and, if fact, doesn't even have socks (during the harsh Russian winter). Those who know Russian culture might be reminded of the classical painting "Everywhere There Is Life" (It depicts the window of a railroad car, shipping political prisoners to Siberia, from which people still feed pigeons) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nikolaj_Alexandrowitsch_Jaroschenko_00...

P.S. Though established to be a chain-smoker, the protagonist can't get nicotine withdrawal (though perhaps I didn't try for long enough...?). The 'shakes' he gets come form being cold.

Tragedy's just not there if

Tragedy's just not there if you close your eyes hard enough?

Anyway, on the game, not that I've thought on this exact topic, but how do you put in gameplay? "Ayiti: the cost of life" gave some gameplay to what is a hard and difficult situation. But that looked forward to some sort of way out.

Is there no gameplay without some sort of better vision for the future?

Perhaps some sort of game element of moving from shelter to shelter, avoiding hard gusts of freezing wind or rain/sleet.

Philosopher Gamer Blog
Driftwurld : My WIP browser game

on the presence of tragedy

My comments about the tragedy being a matter of perception, are not meant to imply that it's all, as they say, "in your head".
I've rewritten this post 3 times, but the basic ideas are these:

I feel that it was the intention of the author to show the child as (extremely) down on his luck, but cheerful. And that doing that to a one-legged, one-eyed, cancer-ridden, HIV-infected child would have been a little overmuch.
There is obviously game-play there without any "vision of a better future". However the lack of goals (or ability to change anything) eventually becomes frustrating. Basically, as insensitive as it sounds, with a highscore this would be a 'proper' game.
Finally although adding shelters, schools, and weather would add depth game-play, it would detract from the story.