Iran Uses Video Games To Spread Propaganda
The Iranian government released a video game on the second martyrdom anniversary of commander Qasem Soleimani in 2022.
The title is “Commander of the Resistance: Amerli Battle,” and it is a first-person shooter set in Iraq.
It lets you play as Soleimani fighting Islamic State militants laying siege to a town based on a real-life event in 2014.
How does the government describe its video game?
The Tehran Times is the “Islamic Republic of Iran’s first English daily newspaper,” and it shared a few details about the government-sponsored video game.
The news outlet says Monadian Media produced the game. It is an institute of the Basij Cyberspace Organization specializing in games and animations.
Its director Moslem Moein allegedly shared a few words about “Commander of the Resistance: Amerli Battle” during Qasam Soleimani’s anniversary ceremony.
Moein said, “specialized production of computer games is in line with the country’s policy to use the great potentials of cyberspace.”
“The Islamic Revolution’s general strategy is defensive, and in this game, we are promoting our defensive strategy,” he added.
Also, The Tehran Times reminded readers of General Soleimani’s key role in breaking the 89-day siege of the northern Iraqi town of Amerli.
The state news outlet said he “has become the subject of several computer games and films,” That includes “Commander of the Resistance: Amerli Battle.”
What did an anonymous developer say about the game?
Wired also reported on the state-sponsored first-person shooter video game.
The outlet said, “the Islamic Republic has increasingly invested in producing video games, in the hope that it can use them to influence young people.”
Moreover, Wired said the game’s narrative allegedly portrays domestic opponents like the Woman, Life, Freedom movement as sectarian extremists.
Meanwhile, the news website claims “Commander of the Resistance: Amerli Battle” depicts Qasem Soleimani in a positive light.
The United States declared him a terrorist and accused him of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings in Iraq, Syria, and Iran.
He died in a US drone strike in January 2020. Also, Wired shared an interview with one of the game’s developers under the pseudonym “Ali.”
Ali said, “Propaganda games [show how] the regime wants the youth to think. Modern games showcase the weakness that the government feels.”
“In the Soleimani game, you do not dare to play as him because you might fail and die, but General Qasim Soleimani never does.”
“This picture is in sharp contrast with how the majority of Iranians feel about him, but the state wants to change that by using video games.”
Other video games from the Iranian government
The Islamic Republic shaped the Iranian video game industry instead of banning developers. It launched the Iran Computer and Video Games Foundation, or IRCG, in 2007.
Wired said the organization provided financial support to game developers as long as they did not violate the state’s ideologies.
The news outlet reported Mahdi Jafari Jozani is the leader of propaganda games development and was behind the development of “Commander of the Resistance: Amerli Battle.”
Yet, he had another major video game in 2020. He released Safir-e-Eshgh, a game set in a civil war called the Second Fitna that promoted hardcore Shia doctrine.
The game and its sequel allegedly presented a revisionist view of the country’s history. Wired said it describes Iran as a Shiite theocracy surrounded by enemies.
Iranian game developers are fighting back
900 members of Iran’s National Library have written an open letter demanding the reinstatement of female employees who were suspended for their alleged inappropriate hijab (Source: Emtedad newspaper).
Since Iran's 1979 revolution, all women and teen girls in Iran have been… https://t.co/Hy6BHeOaad pic.twitter.com/DoFVrZsBB3
— IranHumanRights.org (@ICHRI) March 2, 2023
The death of Mahsa Amini in the hands of the Iranian government’s morality police sparked widespread protests.
It inspired game developers in the country to speak against the regime. For example, Emad Rahmani, the director of Safir-e-Eshgh, tweeted about his outrage:
“Damn traditionalism, damn extremism, half of our lives have passed, and still we can feel our stolen identity.”
“I can see it in the cries of people around me and in the goodbyes of friends who fled the country.”
Later, people close to Rahmani said he made his social media accounts private and went into hiding.
An indie developer under the pseudonym Kurosh and his wife joined the Iran protests. “This is not how human beings should be treated,” he said.
Wired said he was planning to leave the country because it is becoming more difficult to continue making video games.
“I love Iran. I have always loved Iran,” he declared, “However, I cannot continue living like this.”
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