By Brett Gillin
Only in Russia can a game of chance turn deadly and gain wide popularity. The thinking behind Russian roulette can only be described as completely insane: a person puts one bullet into a revolver, spins the barrel, holds it to their head and pulls the trigger. You’re a “winner” if you survive, and you get a Darwin Award if you lose. Now, thanks to the mind of an ex-MMA fighter, those crazy kids in Russia are keeping the tradition alive, only with a much higher life-expectancy of the participants.
Valeriy Eschenko used to be an MMA fighter, but he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Guillain-Barre is a rare nerve condition in which your immune system attacks your nerves. Eschenko was not only forced to retire, but the disease put him in a coma and left him completely paralyzed. That paralysis left Eschenko with plenty of time to think and dream up a new game.
“I was a professional mixed martial arts fighter but suddenly I found myself in a coma,” he explained to The Daily Mail. “It was connected to the constant sparring and fights; all my body parts were paralyzed, I couldn’t even move my fingers… Finally the idea of this ‘Russian roulette game’ crystallized. It was a new extreme, but at the same time, safe game”
Eschenko’s version of the game takes bullets out of the equation. Instead, players use a special gun that has one chamber filled with an electric-shock mechanism. Just like in the ‘traditional’ version of the game, players spin the barrel, put the gun to their head (or neck or arm, depending on the courage of the individual) and pull the trigger. When you lose, you don’t splatter your brains on the wall; instead, you simply receive a painful electric shock, as you can see in this video.
Adding a little gamesmanship to the activity, contestants can try to hide the fact that they’ve just received an intense shock. If they are able to hold back their reactions enough to fool a judge, they can play on. Certain variations of the game will reward people who react in the most amusing way to the electric shock. Another variation has ‘players’ hold the gun to someone else’s head.
For the pleasure of playing this ‘safe’ version of Russian roulette, participants in Eschenko’s hometown of Perm pay a $5 entry fee and the final ‘winner’ can take home as much as $5,000.
One unnamed participant told The Daily Mail “When you are waiting for this moment of shot, and are not sure if you are going to be hit or not – you just have unreal feelings.”