A hot potato: You might know Ukrainian video game studio Frogwares from its Sherlock Holmes series and The Sinking City. It's currently attracting a lot of attention over a Kickstarter for its latest title featuring the fictional Victorian detective, but not for the reasons you might expect. To promote the campaign, Frogwares is running a raffle in which the winner will have a personalized message written on an artillery shell that will be fired at invading Russian forces.
The Kickstarter campaign for Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened has more than tripled its $70,000 target; it currently stands at just over $237,000 with around one day to go. To give it a final push, Frogwares tweeted a promotion that's causing some controversy.
The studio is giving three random people who Like and Retweet its post the opportunity to have a custom message written on a 152mm howitzer artillery shell, which will be used by Ukraine's 24th Separate Assault Battalion against the invading Russian forces.
Message can be anything you want, but subject to our team's approval.— Frogwares (@Frogwares) September 1, 2022
Winners will each get a photo of their message on a shell, proudly presented by our troops. pic.twitter.com/b7vAYEui4N
The messages can be anything, subject to the studio's approval, and winners will each get a photo of their message on the shell.
"A group of fans of the studio who are currently serving in the Ukrainian military reached out to the team to offer their help," states a press release about the promotion.
An unidentified soldier says in the included video: "We look forward to sending these special deliveries to our unwanted guests."
The Ukrainian military has been raising money by writing custom messages on artillery since the war began. Adding messages on munitions is a tradition that goes back a long way and was especially popular during World War II. But the promotion is generating some pushback
"That shell has a non zero chance to land next to a civilian, that's an unfortunate nature of artillery. So go a head folks, donate your money to write some cringe text on something that will kill some kid," wrote one Twitter user.
This is a terrible idea. No matter who's right or wrong in this conflict, you are incentivizing gamers to be a part of the violence.— TheGameSlashers (@TheGameSlashers) September 1, 2022
Another reply complained that "This is a terrible idea. No matter who's right or wrong in this conflict, you are incentivizing gamers to be a part of the violence."
PC Gamer reports that Kickstarter does not allow campaigns that raise funds for causes or charities, nor does it allow projects that fall in the category of weapons, replicas of weapons, and weapon accessories. But as the new Sherlock Holmes title is just a game and the promotion isn't part of the campaign itself, Kickstarter says none of its rules are being violated.
Frogwares says four of its team members are serving in the military and are currently deployed in the east of the country. Several employees are also members of various humanitarian aid groups in Poland and Ukraine. The studio said that while things have been more stable recently, working in a war-torn region is still difficult.
"Please understand we as a team are literally in the centre of this war," the studio said in a letter to PC Gamer. "We have people on our team who have had their homes bombed into rubble. Some of us have lost relatives. Some of us are in occupied areas like Kherson where they are trying to annex the city [to] say it is now a Russian city. We have team members who lived near Bucha. We have team members who fled their homes in Donbas in 2014 and then had to flee again in 2022. Others are actively fighting. Others have been forced to flee to countries around the EU and leave behind their families who couldn't come with them."
"We are angry. We are hurt. Our entire lives were thrown into hell because of Putin who used the term 'Nazi' as a dog whistle against our entire population and sent his troops in."
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is schedule to arrive in February 2023, though Frogwares notes that the situation in Ukraine could see this release date change.