Posted by Alex (2036 posts) -

The video game industry is rarely touched by real world political machinations outside of the usual slate of government content bannings, debates over how they impact our children, and the occasional detour into real world war scenarios. In this regard, today's news that American game designer and former US Marine Amir Mizraei Hekmati has been sentenced to be executed in Iran for crimes allegedly pertaining to his own profession is perhaps the single most incredible and sobering convergence of the video game industry and the very dangerous political world that exists just outside of our chosen hobby/profession we've yet seen.

Hekmati during his trial.

Hekmati, an American-born designer in the employ of war game developer Kuma Reality Games, was detained in Iran during a visit last August. Not long after, an alleged confession by Hekmati was published in which he purportedly claimed he was in Iran specifically to help develop propaganda-based video games designed to "manipulate public opinion in the Middle East."

The confession then goes on to claim that Kuma is specifically contracted by the CIA to develop software aimed at pushing American policy in the Middle East region. Hekmati's confession continued on Iranian state television in December, where he further confessed to being assigned by the CIA to work as a double agent within Iran's own government by gaining their trust and providing false intel, while reporting back to the US government.

It's an insane-sounding accusation that the US government has repeatedly denied, citing Iran's frequent history of detaining Americans in the country and eliciting forced confessions.

Unfortunately for Hekmati, Kuma's history within reality-based gaming may have something to do with his conviction. Kuma's raison d'être was, for a number of years, focused on making the reality-based Kuma/War. That game has included a number of scenarios in which players could track down and kill infamous terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden. A recent entry in the series took place in Iran, and involved the country's controversial nuclear weapons program, tasking players with infiltrating a secret facility to destroy any such program.

For their part, Kuma has admitted to taking some contract work over the years to make training software for the US Army, but hasn't stated outright that Kuma, or any other projects the developer has worked on (which include games about everything from World War II to dinosaurs) were influenced in any way by the American government.

With Hekmati being found "Corrupt on Earth and Mohareb (waging war on God)," he has been sentenced to death. Because the American government has no political representation in Iran, the White House has called for Hekmati to receive legal counsel from the Swiss embassy, who represent American interests in the country. The government has also called for Hekmati's release.

We spend a lot of time when writing about the video game industry focusing on frivolous nonsense and reserving our concern and rage for relatively paltry consumer-minded issues, at least insomuch as they rank compared with the larger scope of the world's problems. It's times like these that make you realize exactly how minuscule the price of a new console or a piece of DLC really is in the grand scheme of things.

Staff
#1 Posted by Alex (2036 posts) -

The video game industry is rarely touched by real world political machinations outside of the usual slate of government content bannings, debates over how they impact our children, and the occasional detour into real world war scenarios. In this regard, today's news that American game designer and former US Marine Amir Mizraei Hekmati has been sentenced to be executed in Iran for crimes allegedly pertaining to his own profession is perhaps the single most incredible and sobering convergence of the video game industry and the very dangerous political world that exists just outside of our chosen hobby/profession we've yet seen.

Hekmati during his trial.

Hekmati, an American-born designer in the employ of war game developer Kuma Reality Games, was detained in Iran during a visit last August. Not long after, an alleged confession by Hekmati was published in which he purportedly claimed he was in Iran specifically to help develop propaganda-based video games designed to "manipulate public opinion in the Middle East."

The confession then goes on to claim that Kuma is specifically contracted by the CIA to develop software aimed at pushing American policy in the Middle East region. Hekmati's confession continued on Iranian state television in December, where he further confessed to being assigned by the CIA to work as a double agent within Iran's own government by gaining their trust and providing false intel, while reporting back to the US government.

It's an insane-sounding accusation that the US government has repeatedly denied, citing Iran's frequent history of detaining Americans in the country and eliciting forced confessions.

Unfortunately for Hekmati, Kuma's history within reality-based gaming may have something to do with his conviction. Kuma's raison d'être was, for a number of years, focused on making the reality-based Kuma/War. That game has included a number of scenarios in which players could track down and kill infamous terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden. A recent entry in the series took place in Iran, and involved the country's controversial nuclear weapons program, tasking players with infiltrating a secret facility to destroy any such program.

For their part, Kuma has admitted to taking some contract work over the years to make training software for the US Army, but hasn't stated outright that Kuma, or any other projects the developer has worked on (which include games about everything from World War II to dinosaurs) were influenced in any way by the American government.

With Hekmati being found "Corrupt on Earth and Mohareb (waging war on God)," he has been sentenced to death. Because the American government has no political representation in Iran, the White House has called for Hekmati to receive legal counsel from the Swiss embassy, who represent American interests in the country. The government has also called for Hekmati's release.

We spend a lot of time when writing about the video game industry focusing on frivolous nonsense and reserving our concern and rage for relatively paltry consumer-minded issues, at least insomuch as they rank compared with the larger scope of the world's problems. It's times like these that make you realize exactly how minuscule the price of a new console or a piece of DLC really is in the grand scheme of things.

Staff
#2 Posted by leejunfan83 (961 posts) -

damn

#3 Posted by Sputty (143 posts) -

what the fuck

#4 Edited by megalop81 (18 posts) -

Woah.. THIS IS news

#5 Posted by GS_Dan (1403 posts) -

So, uhh...

Voldo's crotch, guys? That was crazy, right? Ehh...

#6 Posted by jorbear (2517 posts) -

Modern Warfare 4: Iran and Shit.

#7 Posted by jonano (365 posts) -

Oh man thats fucked up !!!

#8 Posted by Winternet (8014 posts) -

Jesus fuck! The hell is wrong with the world?

#9 Posted by Zurgfrog (153 posts) -

That's pretty messed up

#10 Posted by Mesoian (1574 posts) -

So...I don't know what this is for.

It harkens back to the hiker incident from a few years ago. Does executing this man truly make a convincing argument for the powers that be in the middle east? Does killing a foreigner of original biological decent somehow harm the thoughts and ideals of their own native people? I know it doesn't for anyone in the states because the only emotion to feel is rage towards something that seems so extreme for something so trivial; something that sounds so obviously fabricated. There's no figurehead here, no will of the people, no one knew this man's name yesterday and no one will remember it tomorrow. So why? Because it's easy?

I don't understand why things like this happen. No one benefits from any of it.

#11 Posted by jessej07 (213 posts) -

Such sad and terrible news, I hope further updates can bring some hope to this heinous situation.

#12 Posted by k4el (120 posts) -

So... kind'a glad I live in the US right now.

#13 Posted by Unbiasedfanboy (2 posts) -

This is not what I was expecting to find on when I checked Giant Bomb... this sucks.

#14 Posted by Greebman (115 posts) -

fuck.

this.

#15 Posted by Narosp (8 posts) -
We spend a lot of time when writing about the video game industry focusing on frivolous nonsense and reserving our concern and rage for relatively paltry consumer-minded issues, at least insomuch as they rank compared with the larger scope of the world's problems. It's times like these that make you realize exactly how minuscule the price of a new console or a piece of DLC really is in the grand scheme of things.

Well said

#16 Posted by Jayzilla (2560 posts) -

dang. this is insane.

#17 Posted by Vegetable_Side_Dish (1726 posts) -

Get on it Obama et al. 
Get on this. 

#18 Posted by Tesson (85 posts) -

Hot News Scoops

#19 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

This is probably absurd...but maybe JUST MAYBE...possibly...they are on to something...

But probably not.

#20 Posted by Grissefar (2842 posts) -

Why would you steal a hot scoop instead of giving it to Patrick?

#21 Posted by OneAndOnlyBigE (438 posts) -

That's fucked up

#22 Posted by hrn212 (34 posts) -

Fuckin hell...I am really hoping this isn't the beginning of a trend in totalitarian countries.

#23 Posted by Mighty_Taco (11 posts) -

Iran sure knows how to bring the crazy.

#24 Posted by VarkhanMB (159 posts) -

Man I wish there was something we could do over here.

#25 Posted by Juicebox (485 posts) -

So COD is promoting racism and killing of brown people?

#26 Posted by Kowalczyk (139 posts) -

That is fucked up, praying for the best for this guy.

#27 Posted by alcor741 (78 posts) -

This is really fucked up. Can we do something to help?

#28 Posted by StrikerTheLizard (315 posts) -

Oh shit, Alex, we were just kidding about the "not news" thing. No need to post THIS.

Ruined my night.

#29 Posted by InfamousBIG (3200 posts) -

Oh man, no.

#30 Posted by Atary77 (502 posts) -

My thoughts are with this man and his family in the hope that he can be released.

#31 Posted by Franstone (1111 posts) -

Wwwwwhat the fuck?

I saw this story earlier on yahoo news, they left out the whole thing about him being a game designer.

Not that it matters, the whole situation is horrible either way.

Hope we can get him out of the hands of those crazy fucks.

Good Luck.

#32 Posted by wumbo3000 (960 posts) -

What the hell is going on? This is bat-shit crazy.

#33 Edited by TrafalgarLaw (1117 posts) -

Haven't we been waging war against Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the middle east in videogames for decades now? This is kinda our fault. Make games like CoD and Battlefield in which we purposely kill arabs...Iran isn't a country to be in, whether for work or otherwise. You can get sentenced for death for insulting God, insulting religion and you can be falsely accused, without any proof you insulted or any form of trial.

It's a shame...if he only didn't have his history of making violent wargames...

#34 Posted by stinky (1544 posts) -
in Iran specifically to help develop propaganda-based video games designed to "manipulate public opinion in the Middle East.

yep, sentencing him to death will help change our public opinion from bad to good.

public relations disaster avoided.

#35 Posted by baconbits33 (1156 posts) -

I never ever thought for one instance when me and my brother enlisted in the Army that we ourselves would ever actually want to go to war with a country, and today I got the call from my bro, telling me he doesn't want to go to fight in Afghanistan, but wants Iran. And I agree, I'm sick of them mistreating their own people, and now to sentence one of our boys to death? I've never wanted to go to war, but now I want to.

#36 Posted by Daryl (1781 posts) -

Pointless DLC comment at the end

#37 Posted by Chemin (632 posts) -

Dude, what the 'eff...

#38 Posted by TrafalgarLaw (1117 posts) -

Yeah let's wage an entire war because one of our US citizen is captured without a fair trial. Did we forget about Guantanamo Bay and how they had no trial at all?

#39 Posted by cikame (993 posts) -

This isn't "the grand scheme of things" this is iran being fucked up and religious.

Though.... thinking about it, how would america receive a game where you're an iranian soldier tasked with blowing up american assets...

They probably wouldn't hang someone, that's the difference.

#40 Posted by wewantsthering (1564 posts) -

Wow...that's just awful. Even if he was a double agent, it sucks. The tragedy aside, great article Alex.

#41 Edited by Mikemcn (6982 posts) -

I wish I lived in a US where the government would protect the rights of its citizens even abroad, but now Iran and countries like it can murder whoever they want, and the US will just wag its finger at them, for fear of looking bad. Which is odd because Iran and it's neighbors have made it clear they already hate us.

#42 Posted by AMyggen (2867 posts) -

@TrafalgarLaw said:

Haven't we been waging war against Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the middle east in videogames for decades now? This is kinda our fault. Make games like CoD and Battlefield in which we purposely kill arabs...Iran isn't a country to be in, whether for work or otherwise. You can get sentenced for death for insulting God, insulting religion and you can be falsely accused, without any proof you insulted or any form of trial.

It's a shame...if he only didn't have his history of making violent wargames...

This isn't "kinda our fault", it's Iran's government's fault for being insane. I agree that the games made by this company are tasteless, but to put the fault of this on anyone other than the Iranian government is absurd.

#43 Posted by Oni (2098 posts) -

@hrn212 said:

Fuckin hell...I am really hoping this isn't the beginning of a trend in totalitarian countries.

Unfortunately it isn't the beginning, but a continuation of a trend. Fucked up shit like this happens over there all the time.

#44 Posted by Goldanas (546 posts) -

@cikame: A Republican focused news outlet or two would probably get upset and interview some yokels who'd be mad about nationalism or something to that extent, and people would be incensed and maybe boycott or even start a riot outside of the office if it was locally-based. Depends on how you look at it.

#45 Posted by Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamoto (592 posts) -

And people keep saying Islam is the religion of Peace.

#46 Posted by EquitasInvictus (2025 posts) -

Wow I knew about the part that an ex-marine was sentenced to death but I did not know he was a game designer until now!

This is especially more disconcerting considering how petty Iranian officials are being. Whether or not the person was actually a CIA agent, giving him the death sentence is ridiculous. I'm probably being too optimistic, but I hope Swiss representation in Iran is successful in getting something done. If not, I hope someone out there stands up for this guy.

If nothing else, the United States should push harder in protecting this ex-marine. Being as familiar with the United States military as I am, we aren't the kind of people to leave people behind in combat. It's too bad the politicians in charge of the military are too cowardly and concerned about personal gain to more aggressively defend this ex-marine when in a combat situation his brothers-in-arms would've gone after him.

#47 Posted by theveej (826 posts) -

@Mesoian: there isn't much reasoning in the Iranian regime..... u got to realize they are some bat shit crazy people completely delusional about the reality of the world and completely paranoid about their own power base.

My thought are with this man and his family and friend. I just wanted to say that the actions of the Iranian regimes are in no shape or form the will of the people. The Iranian people have deal with such show trials and accusation on a much grander scale, and are truly oppressed; so many young bright Iranian minds have been taken to prison for no real crime (only crime being semi politically active) and receive treatment (including torture black mail and solitary confinement) that violates all international human rights.

Here is hoping for peace in the Middle East

#48 Posted by Agent47 (1895 posts) -

Don't know what to say...the guy's face in the photo basically says it all.

#49 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

And while Americans rage over this and brag about how they live in a "free" country, Obama just signs the new NDAA bill allowing indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without any trial or legal recourse.

#50 Posted by natetodamax (19192 posts) -

I hope the United States can negotiate for his release.