Comparing STALKER The Game With Stalker, The Movie It's Based On

Long-time fans of the game series probably already know this, but bleak open-world shooter STALKER isn't an entirely original concept, as it's based loosely on the premise of a 1979 art film called Stalker.

There's not much in common other than the radioactive setting of Chernobyl (oh, and the name), but in a great piece on the New York Review of Books, Gabriel Winslow-Yost sits down and really compares the two, finding that while the game may take more than a few liberties with the source material, both are at heart still dealing with very much the same thing.

And that in an even more interesting way, the STALKER game isn't so much an adaptation of Andrei Tarkovsky's film, but of the book which in turn loosely inspired it, Roadside Picnic.

In some ways, the video games are closer to Tarkovsky's source material than to Tarkovsky. In the Strugatsky brothers' Roadside Picnic, the science fiction book on which the movie is loosely based, the stalkers are numerous and mercenary. The elements of the Zone are many, and named, if not quite explained-there's "Mosquito Mange" and "Burning Fluff," "Full Empties" and "Black Sprays." In the film most of these are not present-Tarkovsky leaves in only one, the "meatgrinder," though his Stalker is clearly terrified of many more. But the video game returns them, and adds more: strange traps known as "anomalies," that crush, dismember, and electrocute; and "artifacts," weird little objects with supernatural properties-infinite batteries, death rays, and so on-which are the reason people venture into the Zone. (In Roadside Picnic both the anomalies and the "artifacts" are discarded alien technology; in the games they are somehow the result of the nuclear meltdown.)

Fans of the games, which were recently announced to be getting a spiritual successor of sorts, should definitely give it a read.

In the Zone of Alienation: Tarkovsky as Video Game [NYR]


    lol. STALKER is based on a BOOK! FFS. Do your reserch.

      "the STALKER game isn’t so much an adaptation of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, but of the book which in turn loosely inspired it"

    Yeah. It'd be more accurate to say that Stalker (film) and S.T.A.L.K.E.R (game) are both based on the book, Roadside Picnic. Very different, but both essentially inspired by the same source material.

    "There’s not much in common other than the radioactive setting of Chernobyl "

    Yeah, not much research done. The book (and the film) was written well before the Chernobyl disaster. I don't think the Strugatsky brothers were modern day Nostradamus'.

    I found the film to be horribly, horribly boring, and wouldnt wish it upon anyone. The zone was imagined really well, and actually made me replay the games again, but besides the setting I found everything else pretty bad. The plot made no sense, there was always a talk of danger, but you never really felt it, and some of the scenes were terribly overacted (e.g. the main characters wife having a 3-y.o. style tantrum on the floor).

    Plus they break the 4th wall, not once but twice. Nuff said.

      "Yeah, not much research done"
      Check the author.


        On another note, I enjoyed all three mediums. Roadside Picnic is a nice short story

      a good half century of SF and cinema would disagree with you. Stalker is considered a classic of Soviet SF cinema, and rightly so (imo).

      The book Roadside Picnic has had a strong influence on Russian SF in general - the modern Russian SF novel Metro 2033 draws on the Stalker theme - the professional scavengers the protagonist knows are called Stalkers.

      And then there's the crazy Ukrainian and Russian Stalker cosplay.

    make no sense Chernobyl happen in 1986 not 1979

    Roadside Picnic is a great book. I definitely saw elements in it that S.T.A.L.K.E.R borrowed.

    Anomalies, artifacts, even the wish granter.

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