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Posted by alex (3481 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 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.

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Avatar image for alex
#1 Posted by alex (3481 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 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 Online
Avatar image for leejunfan83
#2 Posted by leejunfan83 (1156 posts) -

damn

Avatar image for sputty
#3 Posted by Sputty (149 posts) -

what the fuck

Avatar image for megalop81
#4 Edited by megalop81 (26 posts) -

Woah.. THIS IS news

Avatar image for gs_dan
#5 Posted by GS_Dan (1435 posts) -

So, uhh...

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

Avatar image for jorbear
#6 Posted by jorbear (2570 posts) -

Modern Warfare 4: Iran and Shit.

Avatar image for jonano
#7 Posted by jonano (405 posts) -

Oh man thats fucked up !!!

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#8 Posted by Winternet (8397 posts) -

Jesus fuck! The hell is wrong with the world?

Avatar image for zurgfrog
#9 Posted by Zurgfrog (159 posts) -

That's pretty messed up

Avatar image for mesoian
#10 Posted by mesoian (1621 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.

Avatar image for jessej07
#11 Posted by jessej07 (232 posts) -

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

Avatar image for k4el
#12 Posted by k4el (127 posts) -

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

Avatar image for unbiasedfanboy
#13 Posted by Unbiasedfanboy (3 posts) -

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

Avatar image for greebman
#14 Posted by greebman (124 posts) -

fuck.

this.

Avatar image for narosp
#15 Posted by Narosp (11 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

Avatar image for jayzilla
#16 Posted by Jayzilla (2703 posts) -

dang. this is insane.

Avatar image for vegetable_side_dish
#17 Posted by Vegetable_Side_Dish (1767 posts) -

Get on it Obama et al. 
Get on this. 

Avatar image for tesson
#18 Posted by Tesson (108 posts) -

Hot News Scoops

Avatar image for nintendoeats
#19 Posted by nintendoeats (6222 posts) -

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

But probably not.

Avatar image for grissefar
#20 Posted by Grissefar (2904 posts) -

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

Avatar image for oneandonlybige
#21 Posted by OneAndOnlyBigE (475 posts) -

That's fucked up

Avatar image for hrn212
#22 Posted by hrn212 (39 posts) -

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

Avatar image for mighty_taco
#23 Posted by Mighty_Taco (17 posts) -

Iran sure knows how to bring the crazy.

Avatar image for varkhanmb
#24 Posted by VarkhanMB (198 posts) -

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

Avatar image for juicebox
#25 Posted by Juicebox (494 posts) -

So COD is promoting racism and killing of brown people?

Avatar image for kowalczyk
#26 Posted by Kowalczyk (147 posts) -

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

Avatar image for alcor741
#27 Posted by alcor741 (115 posts) -

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

Avatar image for strikerthelizard
#28 Posted by StrikerTheLizard (326 posts) -

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

Ruined my night.

Avatar image for infamousbig
#29 Posted by InfamousBIG (3309 posts) -

Oh man, no.

Avatar image for atary77
#30 Posted by Atary77 (578 posts) -

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

Avatar image for franstone
#31 Posted by Franstone (1455 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.

Avatar image for wumbo3000
#32 Posted by wumbo3000 (1246 posts) -

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

Avatar image for trafalgarlaw
#33 Edited by TrafalgarLaw (1715 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...

Avatar image for stinky
#34 Posted by stinky (1564 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.

Avatar image for baconbits33
#35 Posted by baconbits33 (1215 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.

Avatar image for daryl
#36 Posted by Daryl (1776 posts) -

Pointless DLC comment at the end

Avatar image for chemin
#37 Posted by Chemin (656 posts) -

Dude, what the 'eff...

Avatar image for trafalgarlaw
#38 Posted by TrafalgarLaw (1715 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?

Avatar image for cikame
#39 Posted by cikame (1853 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.

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#40 Posted by wewantsthering (1651 posts) -

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

Avatar image for mikemcn
#41 Edited by Mikemcn (8175 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.

Avatar image for amyggen
#42 Posted by AMyggen (7632 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.

Avatar image for oni
#43 Posted by Oni (2283 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.

Avatar image for goldanas
#44 Posted by Goldanas (566 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.

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#45 Posted by Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamoto (598 posts) -

And people keep saying Islam is the religion of Peace.

Avatar image for equitasinvictus
#46 Posted by EquitasInvictus (2079 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.

Avatar image for theveej
#47 Posted by theveej (934 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

Avatar image for agent47
#48 Posted by Agent47 (1931 posts) -

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

Avatar image for mcghee
#49 Posted by McGhee (6128 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.

Avatar image for natetodamax
#50 Posted by natetodamax (19462 posts) -

I hope the United States can negotiate for his release.