Posted by: Montola | June 9, 2009

Dangerous Games

Petter Karlsson pointed me to a piece of news in Russia Today:

A Popular Russian sport called ‘Dozor’ has attracted police interest after one of its entrants was accidentally killed. The accident was not the first of this kind.

Similar to the globally-known urban game ‘Encounter’, Dozor, which can be translated as ‘Watch’, has been gaining popularity since its birth in 2005. The players from 175 cities in Russia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine form teams and carry out different tasks including night ground navigation, extreme and logic puzzles as well as role plays. The aim of each team is to collect ten so-called codes before the other contenders. However, this hunt for adrenaline has recently turned tragedy in the Ulyanovsk region.

22-year-old Kirill Zhirovov was killed when he was trying to accomplish one of the game’s tasks, the Russian newspaper Trud reports. The organizers hid the code on top of a forsaken transformer box. “There were no signs of danger on it,” recall Kirill’s teammates.

The man climbed on it, but was suddenly hit by a major electric shock. Kirill’s teammates called for an emergency ambulance, but no one arrived, the men say, and they were forced to take Kirill to hospital by themselves. A few minutes later the poor man died of burns.

I think this is the first time I have heard of anyone dying in a pervasive game. Russia Today’s claim of three recent, serious accidents is petrifying.

Zhirovov’s death was not the first accident of that kind. In 2008 a 20-year-old student Aleksey Palevsky died in Tula after falling from a 20-meter-high concrete structure, while 18-year-old Aleksey Trantsev lost his hand after an electrical shock.

For comparison, the Shelby Logan’s Run accident is the only serious one I have heard of before.

Also — can anyone shed light on the globally-known urban game Encounter? Is it this game network with claims of over 80.000 players in Russia and other respectable numbers in Belarus, Ukraine and elsewhere…? This video features at least Encounter T-Shirts, but Russian beats me.

Looking for a Russian-speaking reader want to contribute to data hunting? Hopefully we can report back on these things once we know more.


  1. My Russian is very very basic. But from video it reminds me similar games whose are played here in Czech Republic. Probably largest one is called ‘Tmou’ (Through Darkness) and it is based on similar puzzle-solving model. It is around 24 hours long and last year it had 2100 players in 442 teams. It was 10th annual and there is nowadays a lot of games with similar concept (some engages in role-playing, interacting with non-playing people, urban exploring, etc.)

    Just for illustration – first puzzle:

  2. Thanks Tomas!

    Google Translate can get me far enough to tell me that this is all extremely interesting, and that a can of worms has been thoroughly opened.

    I think these are extremely interesting for our research, since they would appear to take high-end experiences similar to e.g. Shelby Logan’s Run and pursue them with a fraction of the budget. They also remind me a little of The Go Game, but with totally opposite aesthetics.

    Just for comparison, by the way, apparently the US fatality rate in parachuting is something like 1:100000 jumps.

    – M

  3. Sad news. It looks like the game’s official site is at Feeding their FAQ through Babelfish, it sounds a lot like The Game, with a team of players sharing a car and tracking down “codes” which are hidden in a variety of places across the city. Each code seems to have an assigned “danger” rating, with 1 being “public space” and 3 being “potential danger: roofs, attics, cemeteries, abandoned buildings, basements” – from other mentions on the site, they seem pretty big on introducing players to interesting and derelict parts of cities.

  4. Digging a bit further, the Russian Wikipedia has an article on the game, including some example photos of the alphanumeric “codes”, which have to be communicated back to the game moderators. When they receive a correct code, they transmit back a clue to reach the next one.

    The article also links to Encounter, a more or less identical game with its own share of deaths, including a fatal traffic accident when a team’s car hit another vehicle on the road, and an electrocution when – as far as I can make out – a player mistook “dangerous clue near this railway bridge” as an indication to climb the structure itself, without noticing the high-voltage warnings.

  5. This is, of course, all in line with what I have earlier heard of larping practices in the former Eastern Block countries.

    Tomas, for instance, spoke about a weapon that was used in larplike urban combat games in late 80’s Czechoslovakia, built out of a real small-calibre rifle, shooting a wooden blank shot at a tennis/baseball loosely taped in the business end of the barrel.

    Apparently the bruises from those balls could persist easily for several days, personally I would also be worried about the wooden splinters in someone’s eyes…

    Also, I hear stories that Russian larpers who fight with steel replicas hit a lot faster and harder than their e.g. German and Finnish counterparts.

    – Markus

  6. […] discussed dangers of pervasive play earlier, so look at something really dangerous. As far as I can think, BASE-jumping is probably the most […]

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