A Ukrainian computer game that brings to life a town abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster may not sound like everyone's idea of fun but has attracted 60,000 people globally since its launch in October.
Players of "Isotopium: Chernobyl" drive tanks around the ghost town of Prypyat near Chernobyl, knocking out competitors as they search for an energy source called isotopium and collecting points every time they find some, Reuters said.
While the game takes its theme from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in northern Ukraine, which marked its 33rd anniversary on Friday, it was also inspired by the 2009 science fiction film "Avatar."
Newcomers to the game think they have entered a virtual world when in fact they are controlling a real robot, equipped with a camera and computer, which makes its way around a model of the town rendered down to the tiniest detail.
"When playing our game, for the first 5-10 minutes many players don't understand that it is not fictional," said the game's co-founder Sergey Beskrestnov. "They message us saying: 'You have cool texture, you have good graphics, your designer is good, well done. You have a cool operating system.'
"People then reply: 'It is not an operating system, it is real,' and the player can't believe it is real," said Beskrestnov, speaking mid-game from Prypyat city square as he towers over surrounding five-storey buildings.
Kyiv-born Beskrestnov was just 12 years old when on April 26, 1986 a botched test at the nuclear plant in the then Soviet Union sent clouds of smoldering nuclear material across large swathes of Europe, forced over 50,000 people, including Beskrestnov's family, to evacuate and poisoned unknown numbers of workers involved in its clean-up.
Beskrestnov and his partner Alexey Fateyev used Google maps and hundreds of pictures from the Chernobyl area to recreate Prypyat landmarks, including residential buildings, a hotel, concert hall, amusement park and a stadium.