An Iranian-born video-game designer wants players to relive history with a new game that gives users a first-person perspective on the 1979 Iranian revolution.
"1979 Revolution: Black Friday" lets gamers experience the tumultuous events through the eyes of a photojournalist who is watching his country unravel. Released Tuesday by indie game designer iNK Stories, the game has garned acclaim for its accurate depiction of the revolution. The lead on the project, Navid Khonsari -- a former Rockstar Games designer who helped developed the popular “Grand Theft Auto” series – says he wanted to create a game that is not only historically accurate but could also lead to a new genre of video games.
The game offers multiple scenarios based on the revolution, but does not include the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
“I experienced the revolution first hand. I thought that not only is it an important story to tell, but that it would be the best story to tell."
Iran has voiced its anger over the game's release and has even accused Khonsari of being a spy for creating what it claims is anti-regime propaganda. The accusations prevent Khonsari from returning to Iran.
“I think it’s fair to say that anytime Iran has something written about them in the west, they feel as if it is propaganda against them,” Khonsari told Foxnews.com. “I feel that they often think, ‘It’s made in America, so of course it is going to be biased.’”
"1979 Revolution: Black Friday" is a choice-driven, narrative-style game, similar to those produced by game studio Telltale. The player views events from the perspective of the main character Reza Shirazi, an aspiring photojournalist in Tehran as the revolution unfolds in 1978. Players make choices for Shirazi, such as photographing protestors from rooftops and responding to an interrogation in the notorious Evin Prison—a place long known for holding and torturing political prisoners.
“We took the responsibility of being as accurate as possible very seriously,” says Khonsari.
Khonsari said that maintaining the accuracy of the history behind the revolution was as important as great game play. His team conducted dozens of interviews with Iranians who lived through the revolution. The game’s storyline is based on their real-life accounts. In addition to choosing their own adventure in the game to uncover multiple storylines, gamers can also get a historical lesson with real photographs and audio recordings.
“As an indie game studio, we are not only proud to provide historical context but that gaming can evolve and new genres can be created,” Khonsari said. “We hope that ‘1979’ does well enough that it can be used as template for future games of this kind."
“We wanted to give players the best experience and so far it has been well received,” he added.
Khonsari, who earned his cred by working as a story developer for Rockstar Games on such popular titles as "Grand Theft Auto" and "Max Payne," lived through the revolution as a child. His family fled Iran for Canada as the new regime took power in 1980.
“I experienced the revolution first hand,” he says. “I thought that not only is it an important story to tell, but that it would be the best story to tell."
“It seemed like the perfect story for a game of this scope.”