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Born in Kiev in 1954, Ivanov was not drawn towards creative pursuits in his childhood or youth, surprisingly. He enjoyed science-fiction books and comics, and was a big fan of Boris Stern, a Soviet writer who penned a range of fairy tales, satire, social and realistic prose.
"If they did not provoke a desire to take up the pen, then, at least, they made me look at writing from a slightly different angle," said Ivanov. "I don't consider myself, like many of those who write now, to be a writer (here, Stern was a real writer!)"
At Donetsk National University, Ukraine, he trained and graduated in applied mathematics, and secured a role as a lecturer at the V. M. Glushkov Institute of Cybernetics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine from 1977 to 1992. At this point in time, video games were beginning to show promise and potential outside of simplistic yet entertaining puzzles. CD-ROMs were brand new inventions, and they revolutionised optical-based storage media, allowing for the arrival of three dimensional environments and characters in games.
Simultaneously, Ivanov's creative writing was featured in magazines and newspapers, and after his stint at National Academy of Sciences, he got a job as a literary editor of the book series, VEGA. Of course, his academic research into the synthesis of digital automata and his personal passion for science-fiction overlapped with these aforementioned leaps in entertainment technology. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is based upon the book, Roadside Picnic, which describes an alternate reality where visits from aliens leave behind "zones" of strange phenomena on Earth.
Ivanov worked for the developer, GSC Game World, in 1991, adapting that text into an interactive and fully realised version of the original, and titled S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Oblivion Lost. Sadly, this has been lost, though its successor Shadow of Chernobyl released in 2007 takes from its source material and the script that Ivanov wrote. Though the reasons for the "zones" differ, the game references a handful of narrative events from Roadside Picnic, like the wish granter, and recycles terminology from the book.
Ivanov was an important link between Soviet science fiction and the video game industry in Ukraine, and without his input, we would be without one of the touchstones of survival-horror games today. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is set to release in 2021 for PC and Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
Featured Image Credit: GSC Game World, Sergei Ivanov