Finnish newspaper uses Counter-Strike to provide information about war in Ukraine
12 May 2023
Due to the globalized nature of international esports, the violent invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation back in February of last year has had a far-reaching impact the worldwide esports industry as well. Earlier, we wrote several articles about initiatives from the world of esports in support of the invaded nation, like Ukrainian CS:GO player S1mple donating $ 33.000 to the Ukrainian army and Epic Games (the studio behind Fortnite) raising a whopping $ 36 million for the Ukrainian resistance effort. Helsingin Sanomat took a different approach though, because instead of donating money, the Finnish newspaper has created a hidden space in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive where Russian players can find information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This way, the newspaper managed to circumvent the Russian censorship that is rampant at the moment.
Special level for Russian readers
Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper in Finland, publishes a special Russian edition of each publication for Russian readers, but the company discovered that this edition has been censored by Russia since the invasion of Ukraine. Soon after, Helsingin Sanomat also discovered that Russia is not censoring video games, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Based on that discovery, the newspaper created a new in-game world called “de vonya”, which consists of a destroyed Slavic city.
“De vonya” contains a hidden space, which is marked by a burning car and where players can find a virtual newspaper. This newspaper provides players with information about the war in Ukraine and a map showing where Russian troops have carried out attacks in Ukraine. The CS:GO edition of Helsingin Sanomat also keeps track of the number of Russian soldiers that have fallen since the start of the invasion, as the Russian regime does not provide this information to its own citizens. The hidden space also contains other types of information and content, including a written story of a man whose family did not survive a Russian missile attack and various radio transmissions.
Rare source of information
While Russia has never been a leading example of freedom of speech and press, the regime doubled down on its censorship efforts since the start of the invasion. Russian media are not allowed report about the war and it is even forbidden to use the word “war” in any type of content”. By law, any reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has to be referred to as a “special military operation”. As a result of this, many Russian citizens don’t have a good idea of what is really going on in Ukraine.
By opening a hidden world inside Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Helsingin Sanomat is hoping to contribute to the continuous fight against propaganda and disinformation about the current war in Ukraine. The question is, of course, for how long the hidden space in the game will remain truly hidden from the Russian regime, but for now, it remains a good source of information for Russian players looking for an uncensored picture of the invasion.