New York Post
Thursday, 16 June 2016
The makers of a video game banned in Iran for depicting prison torture by the Islamic regime have devised a new way to smuggle it into the country — through iPhones and iPads.
“1979 Revolution: Black Friday” — which Tehran in April condemned as “anti-Iranian” and “pro-American propaganda” — released an Apple iOS version on Thursday.
“They’ve shut down over 50 Web sites that were distributing it” in Mac and PC desktop versions, says Navid Khonsari, the game’s Brooklyn-based designer.
“They’ve been looking through the bazaars in Iran to see if anyone has made copies.”
Apple’s App Store, where “1979” can be downloaded for $5, “cannot be blocked,” according to Khonsari, 46, a former Rockstar Games designer who helped develop the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise.
The oil-rich country’s regime has condemned “1979” despite the fact that it begins with graphic depictions of a bloody crackdown on unarmed citizens by the Shah of Iran, the American-backed dictator who was ousted by Islamic revolutionaries in 1979.
The problem, Khonsari said, is that the game — in which players assume the role of Reza Shirazi, a young photojournalist — later depicts the harsh realities of the Islamic regime itself.
“There are some scenes where they’re taking political prisoners, interrogating and torturing them,” says Khonsari.
An upcoming addition to the game will include the US’s botched “Operation Eagle Claw” in 1980 to rescue its hostages. Still, with its “man on the street” focus, players shouldn’t expect to encounter the hostages, or take part in political negotiations.
Khonsari, who spent his early childhood in Iran before his parents fled to Canada, says he witnessed firsthand the shah’s “Black Friday” crackdown on Sept. 6, 1978 that sparked the revolution.
“I saw the possibility and hope in people’s eyes, and four or five months later, I saw it turn into a chaotic violent event,” he said.
“1979” forces players to choose sides as they’re pressured by friends and relatives who alternately sympathize with the Shah and Islamic revolutionaries. They can also decide whether to throw rocks at soldiers, or take risky photos of government violence.
In three years of historical research for the game, Khonsari’s gaming firm, Ink Stories, interviewed more than 40 eyewitnesses. In addition to audio files containing actual speeches by the Ruhollah Khomeini, players can view photos from Khonsari’s own family archives dating before the revolution.
“You’ll find that late ‘70s Iran looks a lot like New York or Paris did,” Khonsari says. “People were talking about Star Wars and doing John Travolta disco moves.”