For 23 years, even beyond the grave, Ayatollah Khomeini has ordered Iranians to kill the novelist Salman Rushdie, with no success. At this week's International Computer Games Expo in Tehran, a 21st century correction seemed imminent. What if young Iranians could pick up a controller and virtually carry out Khomeini's decree -- all while learning some life lessons?
Meet "The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of His Verdict,” an in-progress educational video game inspired by Rushdie's so-called sin. The concept came out of a student contest held three year ago by the government-funded Iranian Islamic Association of Students, reports The Guardian. Despite difficulties and delays, the game's development is described in the Guardian article as "under way."
Gaming for the good of the country is a new mantra in Iran, where technology is seen by the government as both controlled by the West and a way to combat its influence. Speaking this month with the Fars news agency, an Iranian Supreme Council representative cited the creation of "around 140 games with Islamic and Iranian contents which can compete with foreign products."
Whether the claim is exaggerated or factual isn't clear: the game blog Kotaku -- which wrote last December about Iran's ban of the Swedish-made, Tehran, New York, and Paris-set "Battlefield 3" (and the game Iran created in retaliation, "Attack on Tel Aviv") -- suggests the government is purposely drumming up the conflict by overstating how much Iran's nationalistic new crop of games is affecting the West, as well as how nationalistic the crop actually is in the first place. The balance of military to historical to whimsical premises, Kotaku asserts, is about the same in Iran's recent game catalog as in any American one.
Though the student association hasn't yet revealed what the Rushdie game will be like to play, they're promising a didactic spirit. “We felt we should find a way to introduce our third and fourth generation to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and its importance," representative Mohammed-Taqi Fakhrian told the Mehr news agency.
When that rendezvous will happen is anyone's guess. Said director Ahmad Khalili to Fars: "We usually don't have any problems with initial thoughts and ideas, but when it comes to the actual point of production we experience delays." A glut of ideas and patchy follow through -- no doubt student leaders around the world can sympathize.