Iran’s Spying Conviction the Latest Salvo in Global Video Game ‘War’

Iran’s Spying Conviction the Latest Salvo in Global Video Game ‘War’

When former U.S. Marine Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was sentenced to death for espionage by an Iranian court earlier this month, he was accused, among other things, of helping to make video games. In his televised “confession,” Hekmati stated that, after working for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from [the] CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East.” He added, “The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world and Iraq that what the U.S. does in Iraq and other countries is good and acceptable.”

Needless to say, neither Hekmati’s alleged confession nor his conviction means the charges are true. Rather his arrest is better seen as yet another indicator of the escalating geopolitical tensions between Tehran and Washington. Still, the incident highlights the extent to which video games and international politics have increasingly intersected in recent years.

As with any other form of popular culture, digital video games can be bearers of incidental or intended political ideas. For instance, with military simulations and “tactical shooters” being the most popular genres, it is hardly surprising that the post-Sept. 11 era would spawn a variety of U.S.-produced games that involve some combination of terrorism, counterinsurgency, weapons of mass destruction, the Middle East and similar headline topics. Kuma Games, for example, offers more than 100 scenarios for its Kuma\War game series, most set in Iraq or Afghanistan. Three scenarios involve Iran: Two are based on the failed 1980 American hostage rescue mission, while a third, released in 2005, concerns a fictional U.S. raid on an Iranian nuclear facility. The same company also produces “Sibaq al-Fursan,” an Arabic-language car-racing game set in a radioactive, post-apocalyptic Persian Gulf, where the villains fly Iranian aircraft and drop North Korean bombs.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review