New Delhi Television highlights a new online game that lets players shoot opposition figures involved in the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election. The online game, which NDTV describes as a Doom style knock-off, allows the player to "confront symbols of sedition" a term popularized in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election to describe pro-reform supporters who disputed the results.
While we have no way to confirm it, one of our readers claims that a man whose game recently launched on Kongregate (owned by GameStop) has been arrested by the Iranian government and jailed. The game he was supposedly jailed for is "Kill Dictators," and as the title suggest, players are charged with killing various leaders inside and outside Iran including Bashar, Erdogan, Amhadi Nejad, Khameni, Nasrallah, and Putin.
The Kickstarter campaign for the politically themed adventure game 1979 REVOLUTION ended yesterday, falling short of its goal. The game managed to generate $304,741 from over a thousand backers, put missed its goal of $395,000 when the campaign hit its deadline yesterday. In a note to backers, the development team from iNK Stories said that they were grateful to those people who supported them with a financial commitment and vowed to continue to find funding for the game.
Former Rockstar Games developer Navid Khonsari and multimedia company iNK Stories have launched a crowd-funding campaign for the politically-themed action adventure game, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday. Set during the 1979 revolution that saw Iran's leadership shift to a hard-line Islamic state, 1979 Revolution promises a game with a mature narrative, new media storytelling elements (historical assets, documentary content, graphic novel cinematics) and suspenseful and engaging gameplay.
The reality of living under a government like Iran is never so apparent as when a group of gamers is trying to set up a competition that involves playable female characters. According to this Kotaku report, Iran's World Cyber Games is putting together a League of Legends tournament in Sept., but the government has demanded that most of the female playable characters be banned.
The Truman National Security Project plans to launch a browser-based game this week that explores the United States' political and military involvement with Iran, according to a report in Defense News. The group describes itself as an institute that recruits and trains progressives to lead on national security issues.
Fans of Bohemia Interactive's popular simulation-based military shooter series ArmA in Iran who were hoping to get their hands on the company's next game, ArmA 3, are officially out of luck. Though it's not surprising news that Iran would not approve a game coming out of any region in the world that they deem a threat to their political, social, cultural and religious standards, it is nonetheless a small setback for fans and for Bohemia.
The U.S. State Department has called on the government of Iran to release Amir Mirza Hekmati, a game developer who was arrested and already stood trial once for being a spy for the United States government. Hekmati, who has dual citizenship in the both the United States and Iran and served in the United States Marines, works for Kuma Reality Games - a game studio that makes games about real-world conflicts.
Blizzard Entertainment has been forced to cut off access to its popular MMO World of Warcraft to subscribers in Iran, due to ongoing (in an earlier version of the story we used the term "new" to describe the trade sanctions, which was not accurate.) U.S. trade sanctions against the country. The company issued the following statement to a thread complaining about World of Warcraft not being available in the region:
A game funded by the Iranian government picks the scab off a wound that most youngsters in the country probably either forgot or didn't know about it the first place. The game is called "The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict." For those who may not remember, Salman Rushdie is an author who had a fatwa put on his head by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini for his 1988 book, "The Satanic Verses." All good Muslims were encouraged to kill Rushdie for penning his "blasphemous book."
In a shocking turn of events, Iran's highest court has overturned the conviction of alleged American spy Amir Mirza Hekmati, ruling that his death sentence cannot stand because it found "shortcomings" in his case.
Amir Mirza Hekmati, who is assumed to work for game developer Kuma Reality Games, was accused by the Iranian government of spying for the CIA. He was subsequently convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Iranian prosecutors also alleged that Hekmati was training at US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq prior to being deployed into Iran.
Iran has banned Battlefield 3 from being sold in the country because it depicts a U.S. military assault against the city of Tehran using tanks and aircraft. This news comes from the Iranian IT magazine.
"All computer stores are prohibited from selling this illegal game," said an unnamed deputy with the security and intelligence division of Iran's police in a statement carried by the Asr-e Ertebat weekly.
The former director of the Grand Theft Auto series, Navid Khonsari, is working on a new game that will explore Iran's Islamic Revolution. The game is called 1979 and will be set in an open world where protagonists can make moral choices that affect what is going on around him. Khonsari, who worked on Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas, spoke to CNN about his plans for the game recently and why it is important to him.
Navid Khonsari, a former writer and director for Rockstar Games, is working on an interesting game that retells the real story of the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran, Iran. Khonsari is responsible for the "cinematic feel" introduced in Rockstar's breakout hit, Grand Theft Auto 3, and for his work on Remedy's Max Payne series and Alan Wake. After leaving Rockstar, Khonsari formed Ink Stories with his wife in New York City.
Speaking to Russia Today (interview on the left), Khonsari said that he wants to tell the story of the Iranian Revolution with a focus on the U.S. Embassy takeover that ultimately led to the Iran Hostage Crisis. Khonsari wants to tell a deep story based on different perspectives from a multitude of playable characters:
As part of a bid to educate its youth about the dangers of drugs, the Iranian government will turn toward a wide range of cultural solutions, including development of an anti-drug videogame.
Iran’s Fars News Agency reports on the initiative, which will see The Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, Iran's Drug Control Headquarters and the National Foundation for Computer Games collaborating on a solution.
Ahmad Esfandiari, head of Iran’s State Welfare Organization, stated, “When you intend to take something (drugs) away from children and young adults, you need to provide a substitute for them and nowadays video games are the best replacement.”
The student arm of Basij, Iran’s paramilitary volunteer militia, has released a pair of new games that center on “crimes” of the “Zionist” Israeli regime.
One such game is called Assault on Freedom Convoy, which concerns the May 31st Israeli commando raid on activists trying to slip though a Gaza naval blockade. That action left nine Turkish activists dead. According to the Times of India, the game was described by Basijis as bringing to light the “crimes of the Zionist regime during the attack on the flotilla.”
The second game is called Devil Den 2, but no description of the game was offered.
Mohammad Reza Jokar, billed as the head of the Basij student organization, explained the use of games as a political tool, saying, “The young generation must find out about the Zionist regime and since video games enjoy large audiences, they were unveiled ahead of Quds Day.”
Behrouz Minai, the head of Iran’s National Foundation for Computer Games, introduced what is being billed as Iran’s first online game, which was developed with the hope that it will inspire other Iranians to try their hand at creating games.
Asmandez, or Sky Fortress, is described as science-fiction-based and set in a future where denizens of the solar system are locked in battle with robots. The war forces the residents to take off to another system named Limbas in order to start a new life.
Interestingly, the English version game was designed to allow the visually impaired to play it, as it features audio cues. English and Persian versions were created, and the game supports up to 5,000 users.
Minai noted that “Some 10 million people use computer games in Iran, only 100 of which can design and develop video games.”
An Iranian blog is hosting a downloadable videogame that lets users blast away at the adversaries of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s regime.
Avatars in the game represent Iranian reformers, including Green Party leader (and former Prime Minister) Mir Hossein Musavi, Etemad-e Melli party founder (and ex-Parliament Chairman) Mehdi Karrubi and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
The title of the game is “Fighting the Leaders of Sedition.” Radio Free Europe notes that “Sedition is a term used by hard-liners and government officials to describe the street protests after the reelection of President Ahmadinejad.”
It’s unknown who created the game, but RFE reports that “Several Iranian news websites, including “Kharabonline” and “Aftabnews,” are reporting that copies have been distributed in some cities in Iran’s Isfahan Province.”
While Iran has been making a concerted effort of late to beef up its presence in the international game market, developers located there still must oversome a series of obstacles to create videogames.
The Washington Post takes a look at the PC game Garshasp, the Monster Slayer, which was created by a team of 20 Iranians operating as Fanafzar Game Studios. The game, an action-adventure title for the PC set in a world of mythological monsters, and steeped in Persian history, is scheduled for a global release soon, but the developers are choosing to delay a domestic release in Iran, saying that “this is not the right time to promote our game” in their own country.
Iran posses absolutely no copyright laws, meaning that games, music and movies can be freely distributed, leading Arash Jafari to state that, “People thought we had lost our minds” for choosing to make games as a profession.
Shrugging off Western sanctions and a combination of cultural and government repression, videogame makers in Iran are still managing to churn out titles.
An article on TrueSlant takes a look at some of the titles coming out of the Persian country, billing them overall as “actually pretty damn good.”
Given top billing is the Puya Arts-developed Quest of Persia series, which allows PC gamers to take part in events culled from the long and storied history of Iran. Quest of Persia currently consists of three titles.
The first in the series, called Quest of Persia: The End of Innocence is set in the early 1980s and revolves around the Iran–Iraq war. The first-person shooter also features driving and puzzle-solving elements. Released in 2005, The End of Innocence won numerous Iranian gaming awards.
The second installment in the series, dubbed Quest of Persia: Lotfali Khan Zand, is a third-person action-adventure game that tells the story of Zand, a king of Persia 200 years ago. This title was issued in 2008. A demo of this game is available here.
The latest game in the series, released just this year, is called Quest of Persia: Nader’s Blade. A third-person sword fighting game, this title is also about a former king of Persia, Nader Shah Afshar, who ruled some 300 years ago.
Two more entries in the Quest of Persia series are planned.
Another title mentioned in the TrueSlant piece is called Special Operation 85: Hostage Rescue, and was developed by the Association of Islamic Unions of Students. The first-person shooter revolves around the story of two Iranian nuclear scientists kidnapped by U.S. military forces.
Iran’s government has even gotten into the act, funding development of The Age of Heroes, a computer game based on Shahnameh, described as an epic work and literary masterpiece from the Persian poet Ferdowsi.
Protests held in virtual spaces such as Second Life have real-world political value, according to international projects lobbysist Max Burns, who pens an op-ed for Foreign Policy in Focus.
Paying particular attention to SL demonstrations against the Iranian government's post-election crackdown against opponents of the Ahmadinejad regime, Burns writes:
The active Iranian protest community in Second Life is more than a curiosity, and downplaying the importance of virtual societies in our political and social lives... understates the power of synthetic worlds in creating viable social movements...
Authoritarian governments that repress real-world demonstrations have difficulty doing the same in the synthetic world. Virtual rallies are so hard to shut off because the mechanics of virtual protest are fluid...
Indeed, the efforts of real-world governments to restrict the Internet usage of virtual protesters appears to strengthen the rallies as the online community responds to what it views as an offense against expression. So, for instance, Second Life's virtual protests continued — and even increased in scale — after real-world Iranians started to mysteriously disappear from the synthetic world...
Bruce on Games takes a look at the video game as propaganda.
While blogger Bruce Everiss concludes that games have generally been ignored for propaganda purposes, he argues this is because government officials are basically old school types:
The reason we have been left alone is quite obvious. Games are just another media, albeit a technically superior media. But the people with all the power, the politicians and journalists, don’t realise this because mostly they just don’t understand video games at all. We see this in the way they blame video games for violence in society when the opposite is true. And now that ignorance is protecting video game players from propaganda.
GP: we're not so sure we agree, given that a new issue-oriented Flash game pops up about once a week on the web.
At any rate, Bruce has identified a list of propaganda games. Among others they include several PC mods produced by Islamic extremists, the Religious Right's Left Behind, and the Defense Department's controversial America's Army, of which Bruce is clearly not a fan:
America’s Army is the big one. A series of games designed to foster the American Army view of the world on an unsuspecting public and also to work as a recruitment tool. This has been a remarkable success at promoting gung ho American militarism.
New World Notes reports that a ceremony was held in Second Life last week to honor protesters killed by security forces during the post-election unrest in Iran:
Lasting longer than 90 minutes... about forty people ultimately showed up for the vigil. No one there was reportedly from Iran, but some have family members who are. It wasn't only a time for mourning, but coordinating and growing the nascent "Support Iran" group which organized the event.
What we're seeing here, then, is an immersive offshoot of the informal Internet community that has sprung up in the last couple weeks...
While the Iranian government has cracked down on communications by restricting Internet traffic during the ongoing post-election unrest, an analysis performed by Craig Labovitz of Security to the Core suggests that authorities aren't paying attention to the flow of online game data:
While the rapidly evolving Iranian firewall has blocked web, video and most forms of interactive communication, not all Internet applications appear impacted. Interestingly, game protocols like xbox and World of Warcraft show little evidence of government manipulation.
Perhaps games provide a possible source of covert channels (e.g. “Bring your elves to the castle on the island of Azeroth and we’ll plan the next Ahmadinejad protest rally?”)
Meanwhile, Xbox 360 gamer Mike Murikami, blogging for The Examiner, notes:
With the Xbox 360 offering video chat among the features of being an Xbox Gold subscriber, this could easily be an upcoming popular way for loved ones and news outlets to deliver messages to and from the country.
The post-election tumult in Iran has taken a toll in Second Life, where Iranian members have been notably absent in recent day, reports New World Notes:
When the widespread protest... erupted last weekend, I went searching Second Life for Residents who lived in that country. According to Linden demographic stats published last year... there were over a hundred of them then, logging into Second Life on a regular basis...
Linden spokesman Peter Linden confirmed to me last night, "[W]e've not seen any log-ins from Iran." ...the utter lack of Iranian log-ins in the last few days suggests that Second Life is being blocked, or that Internet connectivity has become so degraded in that country, it's shut down by default...
For the moment, however, it is probably better that Iranians' Internet activity center on Twitter and other such tools.