Iran wages virtual war

Video game allows players to rescue Iranian nuclear experts from the US military.

The game follows a special forces officer on a mission
to rescue Iranian scientists from the US [Reuters]

Iranian video game designers have released a computer game in which the player attempts to rescue Iranian nuclear experts kidnapped by the US military and held in Iraq and Israel.

Alireza Ronaghi, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Iran, entered the virtual world of “Special Operation”.

There is little doubt what would happen if US forces in Iraq were to kidnap an Iranian scientist involved in Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.

In the real world, Iran’s foreign ministry would probably launch a diplomatic campaign and demand the Iraqi government’s help to have him released as soon as possible.

But on Monday, the Iranian students’ Islamic association, which is affiliated to the education ministry, unveiled “Special Operation”, a Farsi language, three-dimensional computer game that offers a different scenario.

The game follows a special forces officer named commander Bahman who conducts a covert rescue operation inside Iraq to find Saeed Kousha, a nuclear scientist and the son of a “martyred” war-time friend, and bring him home.

The game was announced more than a year ago, soon after the release of a western video game called “Assault on Iran”, that showed a US special force unit going on a mission to dismantle Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But the release of the Iranian digital counterattack was delayed, partly because the makers wanted it to be comparable to its international competitors, paving the way for its appearance on the international market.

Digital counterattack

“This game is unique in Iran and even in the Middle East, so if our colleagues concentrate on translating it to other languages it may now be released in other countries as well,” Alireza Masaeli, one of the game’s designers, told Al Jazeera.

“Special Operation” was designed over three
years on a budget of only $32,000 [AFP]

But “Special Operation” has been designed over three years on a budget of only 300 million Rials, or $32,000, and that has taken its toll on the game’s overall quality. 

“We have installed the game in our game-net here but its controls are not complete. I don’t see it as becoming a major hit as it is,” the owner of a computer game parlour in Tehran who preferred not to be named told Al Jazeera.

Despite serious doubts about the game’s technical quality, some computer game fans find the idea of an all-Iranian game tempting.

“I’d play it with great pleasure if its graphics and speed are perfect, a Persian language game, I say why not?” said Amirali, a network game fan in a Tehran video game shop.

The real “Special Operation”

Reality caught up with the game back in February, when American troops raided Iran’s consulate office in Arbil, in northern Iraq, and kidnapped five Iranian consulate officers.

They are still in the custody of US troops, despite Iran’s diplomatic efforts to release them.

Meanwhile, Iran is struggling to resolve a stand-off with the West over its nuclear programme by increasing its co-operation with the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

Politicians and negotiators, rather than virtual commander Bahman, are the main players in this game.

But the US has strengthened its military presence in the Gulf and neither Iran nor the US have ruled out the use of military force.

Given the volatile situation in the region, it might not take much for the digital soldiers of “Special Operation” and “Assault on Iran” to cross into the real world.

Source: Al Jazeera


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