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This is Not a Game

Iran Gaming Festival

Iran Gaming Festival

As always in the unfaithful world of global reports, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that gaming is a burgeoning and superbly creative scene in Iran. Iran’s domestic consumer electronic market, which includes computing devices, mobiles and video/audio and gaming products, was estimated at $8.2 billion in 2010 before sanctions really took hold. Today, with the usual entertainment like going out in the evening depressingly costing Iranians more than ever, increasing numbers of Iranians look to life online as a release and the industry is bigger than ever. The Iran Computer and Video Games Foundation –a non-profit, non-governmental organization that was formed in 2007 to support and promote game studios in developing their products and ideas via International festivals hosted in Iran and the like and some gaming sites have been around for as long as 10 years such as Bazinama.


Seclusion at the screen

Developers, programmers, fanatical players – like everywhere else in the world the allure of the two dimensional lucid-dream is taking hold, and games developers’ imaginations are inspired by the possibilities. The country boasts around 32 million internet users and over 20 million gamers. As the internet is often the way, aside from Satellite TV, that Iranians access information more and more of them are getting online hungry to find out about the world and learn new skills. UNICEF reported in 2012 that Iran has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and more than 85 percent of Iranian adults are literate.

Yet it’s not all cartoons and creativity, as we reported previously the creator of the game Farsh, a student named Mahdi Bahmrami, was denied access to USA to collect his video game award. And aside from these concerns, and Iran’s gaming festival which is in itself a celebratory and industry boosting event, there is an even muddier area in which gaming and Iran is of note.


The Iranian Army’s first produced video game titled “Battle in Gulf of Aden”

Iran like many other countries have produced computer games that deal with national defence. As hard to fathom as it is, governments are turning to gaming to predict geo-political outcomes that involve other people’s lives, while media platforms faithfully report the outcomes of these games as if they were fact. The truth is that mathematical and logarithmic thinking has always been at the heart of deduction, take any pre-industrial scientist who discovered something and ask them how many times they had to manipulate variables to discover the end result via experiment. It’s discovery by deduction. However now that Iran has reportedly produced a game to defend the Persian Gulf islands, and foreign press have capitulated by reporting this as a potentially threatening move it really is time to ask ourselves, aren’t games just that?  Other ridiculous ‘soft-war’ headlines are BBCR4’s War Gaming in Iran and “War game shows how attacking Iran could backfire.” Plus the release of the ridiculously scripted “Battlefield 3” with its inclusion of a U.S. military raid on Tehran, which caused the game, not officially sold in the country, to be banned by government. All of these are hyperbole for a hyper reality.


Iran’s response to Battlefield 3: ‘Assault on Tel-Aviv’

There is an odd parallel here with both the preemptive and reactionary rhetoric that takes place around countries feeling real or imagined threats and the countries they feel threatened by.

And it’s not just games that are taking the country by the throat according to Games Zion Persian language gambling sites are on the rise. It is generally acknowledged though ignored that gambling is addictive. As a regular pass time it is mostly embraced in poorer areas where people have little else than their dreams to keep them going, just look around London. You will not find an “amusement arcade” or a William Hill in Kensington or St. John’s Wood, rather in all the run down areas the carpet is worn down at the door by those for whom gambling might just be an exit strategy from a life they feel they can’t turn around. Gambling, whether it’s with pennies or with people’s lives, is never good news.