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History of the Iranian Game Industry

The Iranian game development and industry can be attributed to the experience and knowledge that companies gained through years of IT experience (Ahmadi 2015). In its nascent stage, game development concerned itself with edutainment. But over the course of decades, games in Iran became more sophisticated and diverse. Today, Iranian games touch on themes of aliens, military, sacred defense, literature, poetry, and even music. While scholars have questioned whether Iranian games and gamers can have their own culture, the development of games from the 1980s onward suggest a high level of involvement and concern with conveying Iranian culture in the game industry.

As a result of the 1979 revolution charging the political sphere in Iran, the Iranian game industry has treated video games as a sensitive topic requiring political leaders to warn of dangers of Western country cultural attacks via virtual space (Malekifar and Omidi 2017, 173). The aims of the cultural policy of the new Iranian state were predicated on producing a “dignified, indigenous and authentic Islamic culture” (Sreberny and Khiabany 2010, 24). Monitoring video games is therefore a method of sacred defense for the government of Iran.

Games specifically became popularized in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, with the first generation of game consoles like the Atari VCS 2600 (Ahmadi 2015, 271). Although, the Iranian game industry did not extensively begin until the 1990s and 2000s. Under Kanoon, a semi-governmental game development company, games were produced with a focus on culture, education, and simplicity. The establishment of semi-governmental game agencies became the norm in Iran. In 2007, the Iran Computer and Video Games Foundation (IRCG) was founded, with the intent to better understand the broader game industry and to set higher standards within a given game. But such semi-governmental companies are guided by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which actively selects what games are or are not appropriate for the Iranian consumer.

The subsidiary of the Ministry, Center for Development of Information and Digital Media, is in charge of festivals, marketing of computer games, while the Ministry subsidiary Department of Audio-Visual Cooperation is responsible for issuing licences for games and game-developers (Malekifar and Omidi 2017, 178). There are more than 30 governmental agencies responsible for video game production and distribution in Iran. For instance, the Iranian government’s National Plan for Computer Games in Iran, guided by High Council for Cyberspace, claims to supervise and regulate game production in order to boost the game industry in Iran (IRCG Report 2016, 11).