Sharia-influenced video game sets precedent for global Gaming Industry

Garshasp is something that is surely going to make many Americans sit up and revisit their stance on Iran. More importantly it’ll challenge the authority of American institutions – right from the U.S administration, the media and the software industry, at least that’s my hope – all having been dealt with a PR blow that’ll force each one of them to re-examine their existing standards – be it ideas for a better world or simply ideas for better video-games.

In August 2010, Arash Jafari, an Iranian, launched his first video-game through Fanafzar Game Studios, ‘Garshasp’. It is the story of a Persian hero who goes on a voyage to reclaim his fatherland from evil-monsters. Arash Jafari states that he got approvals through the Iranian ratings authority, ESRB (Entertainment Ratings Software Board), in order to get his game launched.

“The game should be fun, at the same time must honour Sharia, to conform with Iranian and Islamic cultures” confesses Arash.

It would be hard for Islamophobics to believe that the ESRB in Iran works with psychologists and sociologists, not the Grand Ayatollah, to develop sensitively-approved games. ‘Garshasp’ fights only demons and monsters in the game, as it is forbidden to kill human beings, even in a virtual landscape. Portrayal of drugs and pornography is also prohibited, as it is perversion of culture according to the National Foundation of Computer Games. Hmm, after learning of such unprecedented corporate ethic, I would really love to know what sales pitch do the pro-rape(yes, rape, not sex)-and-drugs gaming software developers exploit!

We are so over-fed with the Iran-bashing propagandist news that such revelations about Sharia come like a bolt from the blue; I guess we owe it to the ‘scotoma of the mind’, if there is such a thing, that the Zionist-media is so adept at proliferating. I won’t be surprised if the American gaming-software industry is already commissioning ‘independent studies’ to learn the success potential of such ‘radically-pacifist’ games, in the environment of ‘radically-decadent’ markets. They are inoculated with the idea that teenagers thrive on sex, drugs, violence and all sorts of aberrations their games depict, and soon they might club catering to such needs, all that is dangerous about human nature, under the umbrella of social-entrepreneurship, because ‘society needs a release’. I can only imagine how jaded society will be when one will need medically-prescribed violent/sexed-up video games that give a vent to the angst; but what many people might fail to question is that this numbness was a direct consequence, if not a long-standing grand marketing strategy, to effect such mental incapacity on society, so as to eventually get us to turn to these exact same perverse media to have a harmless vent for all the shit that’s built up in our heads, lest it all spiral into chaos.

The bottomline is, Arash Jafari’s liberal interpretation of the Sharia as an essential element of creating a healthy and enjoyable video-game, that sets a conscionable tone for others to follow, brings to light the fact that Iran is not all that we witness on FOX NEWS/CNN and newspapers, that receive heavy advertising revenue from American business interests. There are of course criticisms of the nation, as there are for every other. The Sharia practice of ‘Rajm’, an act of stoning a person convicted of a crime, is barbaric alright. Most of us lately read about Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani from Iran being awarded 99 lashes and then ‘stoning unto death’ on charges of adultery. How a society punishes it’s ‘astray’ talks a lot about itself as a nation. Saudi Arabia, US’ greatest ally in the Middle-East, is most infamous for it’s fanatic adherence to religious code, and compared to it, Iran stands out as a democratic heaven, as pointed out by Prof. Noam Chomsky, prominent American dissident. Be it the Republicans(overtly psychotic) or Democrats(covertly psychotic), both unscrupulously exploit the occasional Sakinehs of Iran as poster-campaigns for their diatribes against the Islamic Republic, in guise of “women’s liberation”, “civilization”, “spreading democracy” and “containment”.

Depiction of the Iranian Government and Sharia as barbaric, fundamentalist and absolutist is a product of the propaganda machinery that people can only learn to see through if they base their information independent of the mainstream media, because history tells us that the mainstream media’s job is that of stenography for the diktats of the elite; manufactuing consent. Of course there are several valid arguments against Iran – the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ controversial crowd-control tactics, hard-liner clerics and sponsoring insurgency amongst Shia-rebel groups in neighbouring Iraq, but these instances certainly don’t give it’s ‘Not so Holier than thou’ rivals a permit to declare a pre-emptive strike on Iran. For those who have a strong aversion to Islamic fundamentalists, it bears well to read Noam Chomsky’s political works to understand that American & Israeli governments have for decades directly contributed to their emergence, by crushing secular nationalistic movements in those very states taken over by fundamentalism now.

The current “hard-liner” Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a more learned and philosophically sound leader than all of his Western counterparts (a benign dictator if you will), a staggering majority of whom derive their titles via claims to a network of royal dynasties, corporate & banking lobbyists and other such megalomaniac categories. Barack ‘Yo-Mama’ Obama, President of America and Nobel Laureate(!), who has upped US’s Foreign Policy ante against Iran’s peaceful development of Nuclear Energy, has, like much of his predecessors, a misplaced sense of self-righteousness. If one has heard Ahmadinejad during conferences or interviews, one can dissect him as a reasonable person who has a more peaceful vision for the world than his Western “think-tanks”; albeit he is zealous in his condemnation of Israel, which needs to be interpreted through the obvious prism of Israel’s atrocities. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited as the sole international leader to speak at Columbia University in 2008 as part of a discussion on social/political issues, he was cheered with loud applause unanimously by students present there, making up of Jew & ‘Gentile’, when he re-iterated his position on the situation in Palestine, in that they deserve their right for peaceful self-determination.

I know of only Switzerland so far that is putting into place laws to enact a total ban on all kinds of violent video-games, while other countries have relative definitions of ‘violence’ depending on which they allow distribution of games. Iran’s gaming industry is the first in the world to come out very candidly, proclaiming ‘incessant killing of human beings in video-games makes young minds accept violence more readily than before’. Fanafzar Game Studios has to be applauded for taking such a high moral ground in creating a video-game in a world dominated with games that ‘wire young minds’ to accept debauchery, alcohol and drug abuse and disregard for human sanctity as ‘everything goes’. Americans being the most outspoken critics of Iran, have also a lesson on corporate ethics to learn from this.

It is pleasantly surprising to see that the most sensitive and ethically-sound video-game currently in the world emerges from the philosophy of Sharia, slammed outside the Islamic world for medievalism. The persistence of Sharia highlights Muslims’ affinity to traditional values while protecting them fiercely. It would do good to the Islamic world to amend it’s application in the 21st Century, dial down the force and use dialogue more effectively. I hope erstwhile Islamophobic readers, will appreciate the difference between Sharia per se and the hardliners’ interpretation of it, because to condemn Sharia would be tantamount to condemn the Bible and Torah, each one being Abrahamic offshoots and occupying a major if not equal share of the global religions-pie; hence the wisdom lies in understanding that Islam isn’t regressive, rather it’s custodians have failed to contemporarize its’ philosophy, cases of which have also been made against Christianity and Judaism – Slavery was legal as recent as 19th Century, Homosexuality is still considered an abomination in many parts of the world.

I wonder if Garshasp and the Sharia will develop what author/journalist Naomi Klein dubs a ‘Co-branding’ relationship – while Sharia could gain a positive reinforcement and understanding of its values from it’s depiction in the video-game amongst a large population of ardent gaming fans, ‘Garshasp’ can use the idea of non-violence against human beings as the ultimate marketing strategy to appeal those parents who are especially concerned about the content of games/T.V. children are exposed to. It is ironic, that an industry that thrived on fetish-ization of video-games, is turning to religion to compete now.

As-Salaam-Alaykum

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  1. This is prejudice based on Pre-judge !
    The idea above this post has thrown it so far away from the reality !

    Garshasp “The Monster Slayer” is a Persian mythology based game just like prince of persia .
    Garshasp is empty of any Sharia all the way.

    ESRA is just a rating system which the developer for sure has taken care of it to be visible and not banned.

    • Hi,

      I certainly do not claim to know/understand the Sharia…but what this guy is trying to do through the video-game is commendable and daring…in markets obsessed with upping the sex and gore quotient in video-games, this guy is going against the traditional ‘wisdom’ and giving the market a chance to try a video-game that does not necessarily ask you to push your psychological boundaries…

      And if that allows people to understand the Sharia in a different light, allows Iranians to demand a more liberal interpretation of their law, and breaks a few prejudices about Sharia, then i believe it should be applauded for the simple reason that i’ve already spoken of – to allow religion to re-invent it’s message in an age where Atheism is aggressively championed…when religion tries asserting itself in the West, there is almost a Pavlovian fear by atheists/secularists that everything religious has to end up with them getting stoned, lashed, severely beaten up etc…where’s the tolerance in jumping the gun at anything with the slightest hint of religion in it?

      All i’m saying is, this could be a good PR exercise for Sharia as well, to be depicted in a positive light…which could lead to citizens demanding for a more just and humane Sharia in the future…Surely, the Arab Spring has left little to imagination about people power!

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