Wargaming.net, the developer and publisher of World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, and World of Warships invited Warcry to check out its homebase in Minsk, Belarus. The trip emphasized the studio's unique opulence and success amid a country still struggling to shake off the Cold War.
From the moment I climbed up the rickety metal steps into my plane to Minsk, I knew I was in for an interesting experience. Aboard a Soviet-era CRJ-100 class aircraft, I was off to take a look at what goes into one of the most popular free-to-play games ever, World of Tanks, along with its sister title World of Warplanes.
The flight itself was not without its own tales worth telling. The seats' polyester covers were tattered rags - exposing bare metal more often than not. Our on-flight meal was a white bread sandwich with a single slice of cheese and another slice of unidentifiable meat. And yet, we were served by two gorgeous flight attendants whose beauty clashed harshly with their austere grey uniforms. The experience only underscored where I was headed.
Wargaming, the developer and producer behind not only the wildly successful World of Tanks, but also World of Warplanes (now in beta), and beta-bound World of Warships, is situated right in the heart of once-Soviet republic Belarus. The country, like most previously situated behind the Iron Curtain continues to struggle from the ravages wrought by Soviet-style communism. In Belarus, it seems, the Cold War never quite ended entirely.
The flight was the least of my concerns, however, as we had been warned ahead of time of the militant immigrations/customs departments once we deplaned. Before I even left the States, I was explicitly reminded to carefully empty my passport of any notes or papers, as a stray Euro bill, misconstrued as a bribe, could land me swiftly in trouble with the no-nonsense Belarusian customs department. Staying true to Cold War alignments, United States citizens are required to pay $300 for a visa into the country, while other countries' citizens (like say North Korea) may enter for free.
We deplaned on an empty tarmac - which felt unsettlingly like a scene from The Langoliers - and headed for an airport straight out of GoldenEye 007. Belarus only hosts a few dozen flights in and out of its single airport in Minsk a day, so my fellow travelers were greeted by an almost entirely empty airport.